Ben Hoadley is one busy bassoonist and, though
, his new album with Dean Sky-Lucas, describes itself as "music for bassoon and piano from Australia and New Zealand", it's not quite true.
The opening 4 Stucke by Danish composer Soren Nils Eichberg was written offshore for Hoadley to perform downunder in 2014. This is eminently civilised music, in an idiom that shouldn't ruffle a moderately adventurous listener, welcoming us with a sinuous bassoon solo. Later, the two create dashing ensemble, as they move from moody contemplation to teasing synchronicities and contrapuntal banter.
Most of the Australian fare is listener-friendly from Gordon Kerry channelling Debussy chords to the easyflow ambience of Elena Kats-Chernin's Nonchalance.
Larry Sitsky's 1984 Maherq is the old-school exception, a solo lament that has Hoadley achieving musical alchemy with its treacherous extended techniques.
Of the three New Zealand works, John Rimmer's Southern Invention has the same romantic glow that Hoadley has already revealed in concert. Southern Invention benefits from a professional recording and presentation by Wayne Laird and his Atoll team; Father & Son, showcasing the music of John and Anthony Ritchie, was not so fortunate.
University logos have been decorating the covers of local classical recordings for some time now, as the discs count towards academic performance-based funding. In this case, Otago University has lent its support to a venture with little appeal outside of the groves of Academe.
John Ritchie's works are strongest here, if you accept a 2012 Clarinet and Piano Sonata sounding as if it could have been written in 1942. Nevertheless, its amiable fluency needs a better recording and soloist (by day, Stephen Cranefield is Otago University's Professor of Information Science).
The rough recording exposes the fragile violin-playing of Tessa Petersen, especially in the unforgiving spaces of St Joseph's Cathedral, or working alongside a sometimes strident Rebecca Ryan in the taxing 22 minutes of Anthony Ritchie's Thoughts from an Inner Garden.
Producer John Egenes, an Otago staff member who, online, admits to stumbling through life making mistake after mistake, can add another to the list.
Verdict: New recordings of local music reveal the advantages of a professional edge.