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.