This is a recording
of a live concert in May 2005, which
was, and is, a rewarding mixture of
music from the sixty years up to 2002.
If there is a theme
running through much of the programme
it is of variation form, mostly inspired
by historical models. The finest item
for me is Robin Holloway’s recomposition
of Bach’s monumental Goldberg Variations.
The complete work takes 90 minutes
as, more or less, does Bach’s original.
To make things more ‘comfortable’ for
a concert audience, Holloway has devised
a Suite of eight of the first fifteen
variations, preceded by Bach’s theme
and capped by a shortened reprise of
it. None of this departs too far from
Bach but enough new and richly inventive
material is added to make it so much
more than a transcription.
an extent the same is true of Lutosławski’s
version of Paganini’s Variations on
that often-varied Caprice. This draws
from these accomplished pianists their
most virtuosic playing. David Bedford’s
Hoquetus David takes its
theme from the medieval church composer
Machaut. A "hocket" has the
theme broken into one- or two-bar sections.
I liked its energy.
Jolyon Laycock’s piece
would fare better with a less nonsensical
title – possibly "Icebreaker Variations"
as it was, before being re-jigged for
two pianos, composed for the Icebreaker
Band. I hope it does fare better as
there is plenty to enjoy in variations
ranging from the fiercely rugged to
the fluently lyrical. The writing for
duo is idiomatic.
For the rest, Martinů’s
Dances are infectiously rhythmic, though
I must admit that I found the dotted
rhythms of the first a little relentless;
the third, the longest, is the pick
of them. John Pitts’ Changes
is 3½ minutes of minimalism and its
principal, indeed only, interest lies
in a 15 quaver figure being set against
another with 14: tricky, especially
as this is the only piece here played
by four hands on one piano.
However all four hands do finish
from his later, "Romantic"
period, is a delicious interlude, so
much so that I was surprised I had not
encountered it before.
the Severnside Composers’ Alliance for:
(a) putting on such a stimulating programme
and, (b) attracting an audience whose
silence is exemplary.
The recording is equally
so; it does not "get in the way
of" appreciation of this relatively
little-known music and one cannot ask
for more than that.
to enterprising listeners.
Philip L. Scowcroft
Ian Milnes has
also listened to this recording
Music for two pianos
is relatively rare, so it is good to
be able to welcome a new CD of a live
recital of music for this medium given
to a capacity audience in the Bristol
Music Club on 14 May 2005.
Steven Kings and Christopher
Northam are outstanding pianists who
work superbly together, making a most
successful two-piano ensemble as well
as being equally very comfortable in
the only work included for piano duet
– that by John Pitts.
The order of the programme
holds one’s interest, with works by
living composers set alongside fine
works by long-established 20th
century ones. The Three Czech Dances
are suitably contrasted, and the players
provide a full range of attention to
dynamics, with a driving momentum where
needed in the outer dances, contrasting
well with the slower central one. David
Bedford’s Hoquetus David
is a thrilling short piece - I wish
it had been longer! - with brilliantly
executed interplay between the pianists.
The only work for piano
duet – four hands on one piano – is
by John Pitts, the secretary of the
Severnside Composers’ Alliance, and
his short minimalist Changes
is great fun, with players in such great
command that quaver patterns of 14 against
15 sound to provide no difficulties
The most substantial
work on this CD is the Suite which Robin
Holloway extracted from his complete
(over 90 minutes) Gilded Goldbergs,
a remarkably imaginative "recomposition"
of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations.
This Suite opens with the Aria
and closes with a "nostalgic reprise"
of it. The overall impact of the variations
heard here is thoroughly entertaining,
varied, enjoyable and uplifting, in
a brilliant performance!
Then follows a "tour
de force" of nearly 12 minutes
by Jolyon Laycock in his Die A1 Sparrow
(the title being an anagram), originating
from a version for the band Icebreaker.
The interlocking lines are brilliantly
brought out in a virtuosic performance.
A most effective contrast is provided
by a lovely, atmospheric performance
of Poulenc’s Élégie
by yet more contrast in the final item
– a brilliant performance of Lutosławski’s
brilliant Paganini Variations.
My repeated use of the adjective "brilliant"
here is quite deliberate!
The balance between
the two pianos is splendidly recorded,
full of clarity and much detail, though
I would have liked a little more resonance
– but this is a minor point!
The booklet is first-rate
with interesting, comprehensive information
(some by the composers themselves),
profiles of the pianists and details
of the Severnside Composers’ Alliance.
Excellent photographs include an outstanding
one of the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Very well recommended.