TV and film music composer Oliver Davis adds to his growing catalogue of albums with a new release on Signum. Water is the theme running through the 19-track ‘Blue’. Uplifting tracks dominate, illustrating the composer’s trademark mastery of melody and orchestration.
Conductor, composer and arranger Paul Bateman returns to conduct the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with Dutch piano duo Beth & Flo playing a central role throughout the album.
This collaborative approach (he has previously written tracks for violinist Kerenza Peacock, recorder players Hanke Brothers, and soprano Grace Davidson) is distinctive to Davis. His albums to date have in the space of 8 years secured an audience for material that nestles comfortably in the contemporary classical genre whilst avoiding the usual tediously contrived sentimentality some other composers rely upon.
The Water Garden is a dreamy melancholic track with a pop sensibility that sums up Davis’ deft ability. The tender melody is underpinned by a modest and efficient accompaniment. A masterclass in how not to overegg the pudding. And The Water Garden is available as sheet music.
In a similar vein, the up-tempo samba-infused third movement of his Coral Suite pairs a delectable warbling clarinet solo and chuntering strings with a tidy counter-melody in the piano. The perpetual movement that ensues gets the toe-tapping and the heart gently pumping even on the darkest mornings. The throwaway conclusion has a sense of defiance about it.
The opening movement of the Coral Suite with its distant horn calls evokes a similar feel as did The Veil Between Worlds in his 2022 release ‘Air’. Like the percussive material executed by Beth and Flo in Coral Suite, there’s a similarly pleasing feel to the sharp angular pointy sounds of the third movement of Davis’ Sims-like Shoals suite.
Dream Songs is a comparatively daring series of tracks that started life as instrumental shorts, and expanded with vocal lines for Grace Davidson, Julia Doyle and treble Joshua Davidson.
“I found that I kept singing along to them [the original short sketches],” says Davis. “So I asked Simon Littlefield to accept the trick challenge of writing lyrics to fit the melodies of the four movements. The resulting song cycle takes us on a voyage from mountain stream to river, out to sea and back again.” In the fourth song ‘Home’ you could just as easily imagine yourself watching this in a piece of musical theatre.
The opening track – Sea Dances for 4 Hands and Strings – quickly secured earworm status soon after I first heard the album. This and the second movement with its distant glassy chorus made listening to it as I jogged around the nearby park make me feel as though I was in some kind of TV drama.
That’s Davis to a tee. Davis conjures up evocative TV montage music placing the listener at the heart of their own imagined drama. All very Augusten Burroughs in Running With Scissors. Just without the abuse, neglect, or threat of a lawsuit.