This generous selection
from Roxburgh’s substantial output for
piano spans some forty years of his
career. It also generously demonstrates
his breadth and variety of outlook,
since these works range from short didactic
pieces for young pianists to substantial
works often making considerable demands
in terms of technique and musicality.
There is nothing gratuitously virtuosic
in Roxburgh’s often taxing music. The
final result is always immensely rewarding.
Two of the works recorded
here were written for young pianists,
although the composer stresses that
the Two Pieces (for young pianists)
are obviously "aimed at a more
mature age group" than Les
Miroirs de Miró. The
two sets make for a highly rewarding
musical experience, both on the players’
part and on the listener’s. This is,
I believe, the mark of a true master.
On the other hand,
all the other works, from the early
Introduction and Arabesques
(1963) to the imposing Piano Sonata
(1993), are overtly devised for strongly
equipped professional musicians. The
earliest work, Introduction and
Arabesques, perfectly lives
up to its title. The music "goes
in search of a settled point, only constantly
diverted by the arabesques" (the
composer’s words). Labyrinth,
composed in 1970, was written both to
accompany a performance of Debussy’s
first book of Préludes
by Richard Burnett and to demonstrate
the possibilities of the piano used
on that occasion, a Bösendorfer
Imperial Grand. The music thus sets
out to explore the wide expressive range
of the instrument, while preserving
its own poetic concerns. Much the same
can be said of the Six Etudes
(1980), that again explore a wide range
of pianistic techniques, while aiming
– first and foremost – at expression.
As I mentioned earlier, Roxburgh’s music
calls for a good deal of technical virtuosity,
but never at the expense of purely musical
and poetic content. The Piano
Sonata is in a single movement
falling into three contrasting sections.
The basic material is drawn from a three-note
cell (B natural, G sharp, G natural)
from Berg’s Drei Orchesterstücke
Op.6 ; the ensuing motivic material
is derived from these intervals. This
information is drawn from the composer’s
insert notes. The music unfolds with
considerable inner logic from its fragmentary
opening to a strongly assertive conclusion.
Prelude and Toccata, commissioned
by Thalia Myers, is an attempt "to
rejuvenate a classical form". The
whole perfectly lives up to its title
and its intention.
The very name Reflets
dans la Glace obviously points
towards Debussy, to whom the composer
pays heartfelt tribute yet avoids imitation.
The music is pure Roxburgh throughout.
Each of the three movements, of which
the third Reflets dans la Glace
was written somewhat earlier as an independent
work, is neatly characterised, and again
explores a wide range of expression.
This richly varied
and attractive programme is beautifully
performed by several pianists, who all
have a close working association with
the composer and his music. The whole
is nicely recorded. This CD is self-commending
to all lovers of Roxburgh’s music as
well as to all those who relish beautifully
written and expressive piano music.
As far as I am concerned, this is one
of the finest discs of piano music that
I have heard recently.
see also review
by Gary Higginson