Friday, November 22, 2013

CCC 091 - Michael Conway Baker

Vancouver-based Michael Conway Baker is this week's Consonant Classical Challenge. Baker has composed for film as well as the concert hall. He's best known for his score to The Grey Fox. Baker's also a respected music educator, and spent 17 years as an elementary school teacher.

Perhaps its his work as an educator that informs his compositional process. Baker's style is unabashedly tonal, although the chords are often richly textured. Baker's melodies are made up of memorable motifs, which makes them easy for the average listener to follow.

The Elegy for Flute and Organ, Op. 21 demonstrates Baker's gift of melody. It's a short and simple work, but one that just seems to naturally unfold from the opening statement by the flute.

Aurora String Quartet shows Baker's skill at composing chamber music. The instruments are well-balanced, with each getting their own turn in the spotlight. The fugal section towards the end is a definite highpoint.

Baker's Concerto for Harp provides an example of his orchestral writing. The work is straight-forward. The harp part, although requiring the best out of the performer, isn't needlessly complex.

Chanson Joyeuse is an uptempo short work for orchestra. The harmonic movement is similar to that of John Rutter, and delivers the same kind of contemporary almost-pop music feel.

Michael Conway Baker is a well-known and well-respected composer in Canada, where he became a naturalized citizen. In America (where he was born), the same can't be said. And that's too bad. Because his bigger works -- such as his two symphonies and his piano concerto -- as just as well-constructed and appealing to a general audience as the works showcased above.

Recommended Recordings

Hope's Journey

Washington Square

Fantasia for flute and guitar

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