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Thomas PITFIELD (1903-1999)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in E major (1947) [23:28]
Piano Concerto No. 2 (1960) [11:32]
Studies on an English Dance-Tune (1961) [4:35]
Arietta and Finale (1932) [4:51]
Toccata (1953) [3:54]
Xylophone Sonata (1987) [6:22]
Anthony Goldstone (piano)
Peter Donohoe (piano; xylophone)
Royal Northern College of Music Orchestra/Andrew Penny
rec. Brown Shipley Concert Hall, Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, 6-8 Dec 2003. DDD
NAXOS 8.557291 [54:41]

The parents of Bolton-born Tom Pitfield were inimical to his making a career in music. He succeeded despite this and also became a more than capable author, poet, calligrapher and artist.

His First Piano Concerto is heavily indebted to the two Ravel concertos but there are other voices too: Bliss (nothing as leonine as the piano concerto), John Ireland and Constant Lambert. This is a diverting work with cut-glass clarity and lean textures.

Thirteen years later the style is unchanged though the form and brevity of the work differ. The Second Concerto is in six segments from the Hispanic skipping Dance-Prologo to the slippery celebratory Interlude on the white keys, to the solo cello-led Air and Variations (The Oak and the Ash) to the bucolic scherzo that is Variation 3.

The seven part piano solo Studies on an English Dance-Tune is bright, smiling and carefree with only the occasional pause for reflection. The piano writing in the last section pounds along with the headlong effect of a Nancarrow pianola - as does the Toccata. The uncomplicated joyousness of Arietta and Finale also nods towards Iberia but is otherwise consistent with the Studies.

Peter Donohoe rescues the Xylophone Sonata from oblivion. Again the instrument suits Pitfield's Petrushka-bright and Ravel-pristine language. There's even a nod of hommage to Arthur Benjamin.

The notes are in the more than capable hands of John Turner, recorder player and general dynamo of contemporary British music. He has presided over and arranged countless premieres, birthday concerts, recording projects and festschrifts. His ongoing contribution to British music of the current and just past generations has made a difference.

In Pitfield here is a composer of modest aspiration whose music succinctly matches each idea's latency for development.

Rob Barnett



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