*Contemporary Piece.* A set of three fun movements.
1. Avalanche of Eggs
2. Avalanche of Goldfish (Chaconne)
3. Avalanche of Frogs
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_Score 10 pp. Part 3 pp. Downloadable PDF file._
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.
OMP187 Lance Eccles AVALANCHE.
This suite of three pieces is my personal favorite of all 10 in this review. But again, I am mystified by the use of the word "avalanche" in the title, as this word conjures up some negative images that I do not hear in the music.
"Avalanche of Eggs," first in the suite, is a bitingly dissonant allegro, fun to play and hear. The alto player must perform some challenging skips, but the other parts are fairly easy. After all the dissonance (perhaps a dozen or so eggs hit the floor?), the piece ends on an oldfashioned, optimistic Major chord.
After playing through many of Eccles's pieces, I was pleasantly surprised by the romantic lushness of the second one in this set, "Avalanche of Goldfish." This is a chaconne, repeating a seven-measure harmony. The almostcontinuous, flowing eighth-notes rise and fall throughout (imagine the goldfish!). For some of the repetitions, what started out as A minor and D minor chords turn into A Major and D Major chords - a refreshing harmonic surprise. Eccles uses ascending and descending sixths very expressively - but where is the avalanche? I envision the deep relaxation felt while staring into an aquarium and watching the graceful fish!
The final "Avalanche of Frogs" perhaps suits its title more closely. It is downright fun to play and to hear.
This piece returns to the use of biting dissonance combined with effective use of flutter-tonguing. At times, the top three parts flutter away while the bass plays an arpeggiated melody. The bass part contains some flutter-tonguing, but not as much as the three upper parts. In a very effective spot, the top and bottom parts play the melody in octaves against repetitive notes in the inner parts.
Overall, this is a delightful suite of pieces: all parts are interesting, and it is very appropriate for chapter playing by intermediate players.
Susan Groskreutz, American Recorder, January 2011.
Orpheus Music, OMP 187
Avalanche is unlike the previous two pieces in that it does not tell a story. It is in three separate movements; An Avalanche of Eggs', 'An Avalanche of Fish' and 'An Avalanche of Frogs'. I can't say that I have witnessed and avalanche of any of these things, but the music does describe the movements of eggs, fish and frogs. I was particularly taken with 'An Avalanche of Fish', which is a slow, dreamy chaconne and has a distinctly watery feel about it. 'An Avalanche of Eggs' rolls along quickly, with plenty of accidentals to cope with. I also loved 'An Avalanche of Frogs' which jumps along and is interspersed with the croak of frogs reproduced by flutter tonguing. Again, this piece is not for the faint hearted, but it would make an interesting concert item.
Janice Ormerod, Recorder Mail Summer 2009 p.74