Kevin Malone is a Manchester-based American composer—Manchester in the north of England, that is, home of the Halle, the Royal Northern College of Music, and unrealistic amounts of rain. His music is riotous, a whirligig of discombobulatory fun. The first piece, The Radio Song, reveals his dramatic talents as well as his ability to fuse genres. Schubert and pop songs from the 1970s and 1990s conspire to overwhelm and delight in equal measure. Emily Howard seems to have the style down to a tee, as well as having a voice that is magnificently pure (but not unsubstantial) in its higher reaches. Elizabeth Jordan’s hyperactive licorice stick only adds to the antics, which exude the air of slapstick. The piece for violin, viola, cello, and piano American Terpsichore is cast in two movements: “Spin Alley” and “Fine Art and Garage Bands.” Both movements have ambitions to confront a multiplicity of genres, the first with substantially more arrogance and energy than the second, though. This is an excellent performance from the Fidelio Trio in all respects, and the more one hears this music, the more one is fascinated by it. By combining different elements, is it merely asking questions, or putting forth solutions or even paths forwards? Or is this Malone’s natural mode of composition?
Written for recorder or flute and chamber orchestra, the piece Angels and Fireflies commemorates 9/11. The flute version is available on Metier 92106; the recorder version is interesting in that it pits an instrument many of us associate with school in a context that is unfathomably deep, and does so with much success. The atmosphere here is understandably more laden than the earlier works, but rays of hope are beautifully drawn.
Finally comes A Clockwork Operetta, a cabaret based around A Clockwork Orange, and more specifically the “songs” that Burgess included in his own script for the film (Kubrick was to reject this in favor of his own). Emily Howard is a superb cabaret artist, astonishingly energetic. Scored for only singer/actor, viola, and piano, the piece generates an astonishing amount of variety. Much is hectic; the slower cabaret moments shift the energy rather than provide contrast. The recording supports the instrumentalists and vocalist perfectly, whether in Sprechgesang or the faux-folksong of the second scene.
This is a fascinating disc, evidence of Kevin Malone’s clear talent. The use of Schubert (and Beethoven) alongside pop songs, cabaret that sometimes refers to Weill without encroaching on that composer’s territory, all held together by a composer who has a clear vision of what he wants, is a most impressive enterprise. Recommended to the curious.