*Contemporary Pieces.* Lively and fun set of character pieces (even in the sausage factory!)
1. Joyful Awakening
2. Breakfast at the Trough
3. An Outing to the Sausage Factory
_Score 8 pp. Part 4 pp._
REVIEWS OF TEN COMPOSITIONS BY LANCE ECCLES
(Orpheus Music, orpheusmusic.com.au).
For 20 years, Lance Eccles was a member of the Reluctant Consort, a group based in Sydney, Australia. Most of his compositions have been written for this consort or for meetings of the Sydney Society of Recorder Players. Eccles is retired from his position as a senior lecturer in Chinese at Macquarie University. His current web site states that he is an "honorary senior research fellow in the Department of Ancient History at Macquaie University in Sydney, Australia"; see www.ocs.mq.edu.au/~leccles.
There are generalities that apply to many of the pieces reviewed here. The reader will note that all of the pieces have colorful programmatic titles. Sometimes, the music des indeed match the literary ideas of the titles. In this reviewer's opinion, there are other cases (as specifically noted below) where the literary images of the title and the actual music do not seem to connect. It may be, in some cases, that some words in these titles simply have other connotations in Australian culture. In any case, a simple solution for this problem would be for the publications to include information regarding the literary ideas behind the titles and how these ideas connect to the music.
Concerning his style, rhythms are straightforward and on the easier side, oftentimes using light syncopation. For the most part, the voices are very active, with a common exception being the bass lines. It is rare for the upper voices to hold any note longer than a halfnote, sometimes even in the final measures. Eccles has a remarkable ability to have voices moving every half beat for extended passages. He does a great job keeping his voices in lively contrary motion, but he also uses parallel motion to great effect. He likes abrupt endings.
Some of his music uses lush Romantic harmonies; some is more contemporary and mildly dissonant or even sharply dissonant. Eccles is equally at home in all these harmonic idioms. To enjoy hearing and playing Eccles's music, you will need a taste for contemporary harmony. Having said that the rhythms are easy, I should also mention that most of his music is quite chromatic. If your groups are interested in playing these pieces, get out the chromatic scales; you will need to know all chromatic fingerings.
Eccles likes to use phrase modulations to distantly-related keys. There are no avantgarde techniques in any of these pieces, beyond simple flutter-tonguing. If I had to rate them for difficulty on a scale of one to five, most would rate a three with exceptions noted below.
Regarding prices listed, Orpheus Music will remove taxes from the total for non- Australian customers. Prices vary day to day. These pieces are listed with two purchase options: the published version (in hard copy with the well-known purple and orange covers) and the .pdf instantly-downloadable version from orpheusmusic.com.au.
OMP194 Lance Eccles PIGLETS AT THE TROUGH.
Piglets at the Trough's three pieces open with "Joyful Awakening" - and that, it is! Ascending and descending passages make me picture the morning stretch. Then, under the performance direction "Happily," begins a cute, carefree melody in the soprano supported by interesting activity in the other three parts. The "happiness" is interrupted by one rather dissonant measure, then the tenor steals the melody. Following a measure recalling the opening, the soprano takes the melody back, to be interrupted by three voices moving in parallel octaves. After various developments, the soprano returns, happily playing the main theme.
"Breakfast at the Trough" is in a fast 3/8 time - a busy piece with almost constant eighth-note motion except in the slower bass part. While not heavily dissonant, this piece does use repeated notes that turn into tone clusters; hence, I was surprised to hear it end on a traditional V-I cadence! This piece also uses hemiola - sometimes in just the bass, sometimes in the bottom two parts.
The final piece is ominously titled: "An Outing to the Sausage Factory." I expected darker music from the outset, but didn't hear it until a short passage near the end marked "solemnly." For most of the piece, the piglets appear to enjoy their little field trip, as evidenced by the lighthearted music. Even as the music moves "solemnly," it is a slightly varied augmentation of the original carefree melody lasting six measures. A rest in all parts precedes the end, with the original playful melody. I must conclude that the piglets briefly glimpsed their future, but quickly forgot about it and returned to childhood.
This piece is more difficult to play than most of Eccles's compositions, due to the chromatic passages - particularly one that begins the first piece, where the rising and falling chromatic passages do not fit any scale that most students would have previously practiced.
This was my first foray into the music of Lance Eccles, but it won't be my last. I'd like to offer a huge thankyou to Donn and Aggie Sharer and Suan Guess Hansen, my friends who played through all of this music (each piece several times) - no small project!
Susan Groskreutz, American Recorder, January 2011.
Piglets at the Trough
Orpheus Music, OMP 194
The sight of music in the distinctive purple and orange covers can only mean one thing, more original music from the Australian Orpheus Music Publications, whose two main resident composers are Lance Eccles and Benjamin Thorn. In this latest clutch of quartets, there are three by Eccles and one by Thorn, each with the quirky titles we have come to expect. Piglets at the Trough might not appeal to the vegetarians amongst us, especially with the final movement entitled 'An outing to the sausage
factory'! The music is in true Lance Eccles' style; challenging, both rhythmically and chromatically. The first movement, The Joyful Awakening', starts freely as if stretching and waking up and then launches into a simple carefree melody which is passed between the parts, undergoing modulation and a few rhythmic changes before returning to the home key. Next, in Breakfast at the Trough', the piglets are obviously keen to get the food, as the movement is a short, fast moving piece in 3/8 time, again with some challenging accidentals. Finally, in 'An Outing to the Sausage Factory', the piglets dance along unaware of their fate, until after a molto rit, a solemn section is reached which has a hymn-like quality. After a short tacet bar, the melody skips away again, so perhaps the piglets escape after all.
Janice Ormerod, Recorder Mail Summer 2009 p.74