Album Review: Hemispheres/ Sally Walker/ Philip Mayers


Hemispheres is a gem of a CD, which, like many independent recordings, has slipped under the radar of the mainstream press.

Described as ‘Mystical journeys through four continents’ Hemispheres was recorded by flautist Sally Walker with pianist Philip Mayers, both prodigiously gifted Australian musicians with impressive international careers.

The anthology represents eleven 20th century composers from Europe, Asia, South America and Australia, amongst them Australia’s Paul Stanhope, Anne Boyd, Richard Meale and Marian Budos with Frank Martin, Ernst Bloch, Vanraj Bhatia, David Matthews, Jindřich Feld, Coco Nelegatti and Pēteris Vasks. Given the flute’s ubiquitous presence through time and across cultures, a feature that Walker explores in her liner notes, the music we hear on Hemispheres is a refreshing and challenging expansion to conventional flute recital repertoire. The 19 tracks on the album add to just under 80 minutes of music and include 6 world premiere recordings.

Hemispheres allows both flautist and pianist to showcase their technical mastery and versatility in style, working very much as equal partners. Walker establishes her credentials opening with the intensely chromatic Ballade for Flute and Piano by Frank Martin which ends in an explosion of bravura playing. There is the impossibly demanding Ainava ar Putniem (Landscapes with Birds) by the Latvian Pēteris Vasks and Czech composer Jindřich Feld’s Quatre Pièces pour Flûte Seule, both unaccompanied, which reveal the sheer beauty and myriad sounds which Walker draws from her instrument. She creates a pulsating gambol with the intrinsic rhythmicity and folk-style ornamentation of London-based Indian-born Vanraj Bhatia’s Dance in Night Music; the selections by Nelegatti are played with a languorous, improvisatory Latin feel which allows Mayers to demonstrate his sensitivity but also his virtuosity. Anne Boyd’s Red Sun, Chill Wind, pushes the boundaries, calling for extended techniques between flute and piano, with intriguing effect.

Sally Walker has an active performing and recording career and regularly collaborates with the Australian Chamber Orchestra as well as holding an academic appointment as Lecturer in Flute and Academic Studies at the University of Newcastle. She worked extensively in Europe performing with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, amongst others, before returning to settle in Australia in 2006. Berlin-based Philip Mayers maintains a busy performing and recording career as pianist, vocal coach, chamber musician and conductor, with concert appearances that have included the Aldeburgh and Montreaux Festivals, London’s Purcell Room and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. He has worked with the RIAS-Kammerchor and Capella Amsterdam and his appointments as Music Director have included the Berlin Kammeroper and the Konzerthaus Berlin.

Recorded in the Mendelssohn-Haus, Leipzig, Hemispheres was released on the Chartreuse label in 2013. With Hemispheres, Walker and Mayers together demonstrate the universality and the versatility of the flute, whether sophisticated or rustic; in the salon or the pasture. It is an important exploration of techniques and of modern flute repertoire with previously unrecorded works by both established and emerging composers. Brilliantly performed.

Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney©








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