Reviews for Northern Lights

I wasn't familiar with Stephen Goss before this but I am most impressed by his music here. There are some 19 pieces on this disc for trio, duo and solo flute. The title piece, "Northern Lights" begins stark with each note carefully placed. The trio of flute, bass clarinet and acoustic guitar is warm and enticing on the second section, similar to the more melodic parts of Oregon. There is a suite called "Welsh Folksongs" which is somber and quite lovely when it begins and then becomes more lively and intense as it evolves. The final suite is called "Reflections on 'The Garden of Cosmic Speculation'" and it not as hokey as it sounds. Parts sound like medieval chamber music, yet more restrained with some more delicate and contemplative sections. For me, it was nice to hear music from the subtle side of things even with those brief moments bristling intensity.
Downtown Music Gallery, New York Bruce Lee Gallanter 29/04/2011

**** Rendered here in woodwind tones and acoustic guitar, the ambient landscape compositions of Stephen Goss exist in the grey area where ECM chamber-jazz and Hathut minimalism shades into Windham Hill new-ageism. At its best, it's utterly captivating: the solo flute piece "The Sea of the Edge" is as hauntingly desolate as the moon feature after which it's named, and the four-part suite "Northern Lights" hangs like East Coast fog, clarinet and flute in sparse, unhurried collusion akin to a meditative Feldman work. And the transcription to flute, guitar and clarinet works particularly well on the eight-part "Reflections on the Garden of Cosmic Speculation".
The Independent Andy Gill 10/06/2011

"brilliantly performed CD"
Classical Guitar Magazine Colin Cooper 01/11/2011

THE AUDIENCE at the November concert was treated to a varied and stimulating programme by "Batignano" featuring Susie Hodder-Williams, flute, Chris Caldwell, saxophone and clarinet and Graham Roberts, guitar. This unusual combination of instruments provided colour and contrast not found in more conventional groups. The suite from Purcell’s "Dido and Aeneas" received a delicate and sensitive touch from all the players. Stephen Goss’s "Northern Lights", specially commissioned in 2011, set very different challenges. The opening movement was broodingly atmospheric, the second intricate, with staccato outbursts, the third dreamy, and the finale upbeat and optimistic. J S Bach’s "Lute Suite" was relaxed and tuneful. The soulful Sarabande and lively Gigue were played with consummate control and the flute’s contribution throughout was outstanding. Spot the tune was the name of the game in a sumptuous arrangement of Welsh folksongs by Stephen Goss. The final work was a set of Bartok’s Roumanian Folk Dances. All were despatched with great brio and well-sprung gypsy-like rhythms. "You’re the cream in my coffee" from the 1928 show "Hold Everything" composed by Ray E Henderson saw the players let their hair down and bring a swinging end to a most enjoyable concert.
The Gazette Gerry Philip 23/11/2011

Mysterious notes on the bass clarinet, soon joined by flute, begin the intriguing Northern Lights of the title. All the music on this brilliantly performed CD comes into the 'musical landscapes' category, and this opening piece to some extent heralds the musical patterning that follows. There is Norse mythology here too, in the form of the Valkrior, who were maidens who escorted slain warriors to Valhalla. But any Wagnerian pre-echoes vanish when you hear Goss's unwagnerian music. The Sea of the Edge is an ocean of the moon. Goss is aware, as we all are, that music generally sees the distant satellite in a warm romantic light, but his purpose is to convey the chilliness of the luna landscape, which the flute does effectively in avoiding any resemblance to Rusalka and the Silver Moon. Melody returns with David of the White Rock, flute and guitar giving it a calm and a coolness. This group of short Welsh folksongs (one lasts for only 52 seconds) never outstays its welcome, the composer's inventive powers using soprano saxophone and bass clarinet to great effect. Who would have thought that the piccolo would be so expressive? Autumn Song is based on Chinese songs about the parting of lovers, in particular that caused by the brutal conscription of young men to build the Great Wall. In China I was told of one such young man, whisked away immediately after his wedding. His bride wrote to him regularly for some years without receiving a reply, and finally decided to go and look for him herself. She succeeded after many difficulties, only to be told that he had died a week or two previously. The music here suggests grief quietly accepted, but stories like that strike you with a powerful impact. An earlier work, The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, was composed for a slightly different ensemble than that used in Reflections on The Garden of Speculation, thought the bass clarinet is common to both works. The new work consists mainly of re-workings of the original material, with some improvisation. Goss's response to architecture, including garden design, is acute. He can even write a lyrical piece about the new stadium at Arsenal's football ground - versatility indeed. But versatility is only part of it: Stephen Goss brings to each piece a keen musical intelligence that does not preclude the warmth of an instinctual response. I believe that these qualities make him one of the most consistently interesting composers in Britain today.
Classical Guitar Magazine Colin Cooper 01/11/2011

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