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Ronald Hannah (b. 1945)
Piano Trio No 2 ‘The Armenian’ (2016)
Holland Point Music, for soprano saxophone and marimba (2002)
Ballade, for piano (1994-2001)
Concert Piece, for flute and piano (1975)
Meditation, for cello and piano (1976)
The Lonely Princess, for flute and guitar (1978/1981)
String Quartet (1973)
Devil’s Dance, for violin and piano (1972)
No recording details
PGM AUDIO PGM2102-2 [56]

The repertoire here is chamber and the sequencing of the works is the composer’s own spanning 50 years of composition. Ron Hannah is in his later 70s now and a graduate of the University of Alberta Department of Music and describes his style as one of ‘dissonant tonality’. If that sounds your kind of thing, read on.

The ‘Armenian’ Piano Trio dates from 2016, opens ‘Misterioso’ but becomes more defined whilst also hinting at folklore as the lines generate amplitude and a breadth of lyric romanticism. The central movement is more obviously Armenian harmonically – there’s deft distribution of material for the three players – whilst the finale is a driving dance, the piano working hard to propel the generation of heat. It sounds like a kind of hora. This attractive and eminently likeable work is followed by one for the unusual combination of soprano saxophone and marimba, Holland Point Music (2002), which rejoices in its playfulness, the saxophone’s twisting angular lines coiling over the marimba.

The Ballade for piano explores a sterner element of the composer’s musical armoury as it combines 12-tone urgency with ripely romantic harmony, the piano’s amplitude increasing in the music’s fierce, powerful drive. Hannah is expert at writing for different voices, as his Concert Piece for flute and piano shows, where the fluidity and freedom of the writing profitably contrasts with faster writing; a fine piece and an attractive contribution to the flute repertoire. The Meditation for cello and piano has been arranged from a much larger-scaled work but functions well in this reduced form, possessing a calm refinement. The Lonely Princess for flute and guitar has also been arranged from a larger work, in this case a ballet. The guitar hints at the antique, at the processional, whilst the flute’s airy songfulness is both aerial and alive.

Of larger scale is the String Quartet of 1973. Here stern themes contrast with more expansive ones, the music remaining, in the first movement at least, watchful with short motifs fluidly employed. The central movement is a double canon, gravely beautiful, and the finale is rhythmically vivid and strongly communicative. The closer to this disc is the earliest composition, The Devil’s Dance (1972), written for violin and piano, an exciting two-minute piece with which to end.

The works come from a variety of sources on a number of different labels such as Eclectra, SST and Clef, which have been issued over the years, but brought together now by PGM Audio. They’re all heard in excellent sound, both in terms of performance and recording quality. Ron Hannah is very much his own man writing music of direct lyricism and terpsichorean refinement, spiced with those constructive dissonances of his, and his is a voice worth knowing.

Jonathan Woolf
Wolfgang David (violin): Tobias Stosiek (cello): Christopher Devine (piano)
William H Street (soprano saxophone) and Trevor Brandenburg (marimba)
Sylvia Shadick-Taylor (piano)
Shelley Younge (flute) and Sylvia Shadick-Taylor (piano)
Margaret Gay (cello) and Eve Egoyan (piano)
The Penderecki String Quartet
Joanna Ciapka-Sangster (violin) and Mikołaj Warszyński (piano)

Published: November 29, 2022

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