Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Piano Music of Herbert HOWELLS and Armstrong GIBBS.
Alan Cuckston (piano)
£11.00 (including p & p) from Alan Cuckston at Turnham Hall, Cliffe, Selby, N.Yorks. YO8 6ED

The principal work here is the Lakeland Pictures by Armstrong Gibbs, eight preludes, written in a gorgeously fluid and tuneful idiom, depicting Thirlmere, Rydal Beck, Watendlath, Langdale, Borrowdale, Winster, Wastwater and Tarn Hows, displaying the Lake District in a variety of scenes and moods. They were composed at Windermere when Gibbs was evacuated there during the last war, but the manuscript was lost to sight until 1996 and Alan Cuckston gave the first performance at Doncaster Museum & Art Gallery in March 1999. How splendid to have it on record. Another, earlier, Gibbs suite, his three movement In the High Alps, is delightful; again the idiom is late Romantic and generally melodious but with a touch of bitonality adding spice - the finale, Winter Sport, appears to end with a tumble on the ski slope! In contrast we have more or less the whole of Herbert Howells' solo piano output. This again affords varied experiences : a spirited scherzo Gadabout; two dances reworked from Playford's 17th Century collection; the pleasing miniature There was a Most Beautiful Lady (from Country Pageant, written for Armstrong Gibbs' daughter); the Graingeresque Triumph Tune dedicated to Howells' children, Ursula and the tragic Michael; Sarum Sketches, dedicated to a Salisbury Cathedral choirboy and in effect an English Kinderszenen; and two pieces from Opus 14, a bleak sounding Rhapsody and a rather restrained Jackanapes. I recommend this release without reservation. The playing not only has the accomplishment we expect from Mr. Cuckston, but it shows the genuine affection these pieces demand and deserve. The recordings, made in 1991 (Howells) and 2000 (Gibbs) are good; the booklet cover carries a photograph of Derwentwater, not one of Gibbs' Pictures, but delightful.

Philip Scowcroft

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