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Graham FITKIN (b. 1963)
Sciosophy (1986)a [4:29]
Untitled 11 (1987)a [6:34]
There Is A Great Weight On My Head Tonight (1986)a [8:50]
Flak (1989)a [6:27]
The Cone Gatherers (1987)b [11:00]
Piano Piece 90 (1990)b [1:58]
From Yellow to Yellow (1985)b [1:35]
Piano Piece Early 89 (1989)b [4:09]
Piano Piece Mid 89 (1989)b [2:23]
Piano Piece Late 89 (1989)b [2:40]
Eleanor Alberga, Graham Fitkin, Shelagh Sutherland, Errollyn Wallen (pianos)a; Graham Fitkin (piano)b
Recorded: Floating Earth Wilde Theatre, Bracknell, July 1990
GFR GFCD 990901 [49:55]

(b. 1963)
Bed (1998) [5:49]
Bob (1996) [1:46]
Ironic (1997) [16:19]
Turning (2000) [6:53]
Beethoven 7 (1999) [2:29]
Graham Fitkin Group
Recorded: Snakeranch Studios, London, July 2000
GFR GFCD 000703 [33:59]


Until I received these discs for review, Graham Fitkin was just a name. I remembered the name because some of his music was at one time available on two Argo CDs neither of which I have heard. The present opportunity to hear some of his music is most welcome, the more so because it turned out to be both attractive and enjoyable.

The first of these discs is devoted to some his piano music, and includes four pieces for two pianos/eight hands as well as several shorter pieces for solo piano. In his concise notes, the composer states that “the first four tracks, for four people on two pianos, are on the brighter, more exuberant side ... the remainder are more introspective, intimate works for solo piano”.

In fact, the four pieces for two pianos/eight hands are joyfully animated with tricky exuberant rhythmic writing. I hope I may be forgiven for saying that the music often reminded me of Milhaud’s pieces for multiple pianos, such as Scaramouche and Le Bal martiniquais. The dancing rhythms of the music are tricky and spiced with mild dissonance. The composer joined by friends and fellow composers in these performances enjoys himself enormously and so do we.

The other pieces for solo piano are all short and straightforward. As the composer mentions, the music is restrained and often dreamy and meditative. None of these miniatures outstays its welcome. The suite The Cone Gatherers, drawn from incidental music for a play based on Robin Jenkins’ eponymous novel, is a fairly substantial and rather more serious work.

The pieces on the second disc are for ensemble. On the whole, the music shares characteristics with the pieces for piano. It is often based on repetition and ostinatos, moves forward with energy, but is not minimalist in the same sense as, say, Steve Reich’s or Riley’s. Neither does it completely compare with Louis Andriessen’s hard-edged Minimalism. The first work Bed gives a good idea of what to expect. There is much propulsive energy here, but none of the often more aggressive sharpness of Andriessen’s music. Some of the works are fairly short, although the rather oddly titled Ironic is a substantial piece in three movements (fast-slow-fast) using similar material, albeit viewed from different angles. Turning is a beautifully atmospheric Nocturne. Hard as I tried, I was not able to spot the material from Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony worked into the short, brilliant Beethoven 7, but it does not really matter for this is a rumbustious encore of great verve.

Graham Fitkin’s music is straightforward, rhythmically alert, colourful and – most importantly – refreshingly unpretentious. Again, some bits must be awfully tricky to play but these players obviously enjoy themselves enormously and play with all their heart. My sole regret is that the playing time of these discs is on the short side.

I look forward to hearing more Fitkin soon, and will in the meantime return to these discs for some fresh air.

Hubert Culot



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