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Edwin ROXBURGH (b. 1937)
Sound Adventures for piano
Reflets dans la Glace (2003)a [11:48]
Les Miroirs de Miró (1981)b [4:53]
Six Etudes (1983)c [14:14]
Piano Sonata (1993)d [17:11]
Two Pieces (for young pianists)e [4:23]
Prelude and Toccataf [7:49]
Labyrinth (1970)g [8:07]
Introduction and Arabesques (1963)h [6:55]
Tong Duo (Waka Hasegawa, Joseph Tong)a; Thalia Myersb; Hiroaki Takenouchic; Peter O’Hagand; Sally Mayse; Karl Lutchmayerf; George Kingg (piano)
rec. The Warehouse, London SE1, November 2006 (Reflets dans la Glace) and June 2003 (all other works)
NMC D132 [75:20]

This generous selection from Roxburgh’s substantial output for piano spans some forty years of his career. It also generously demonstrates his breadth and variety of outlook, since these works range from short didactic pieces for young pianists to substantial works often making considerable demands in terms of technique and musicality. There is nothing gratuitously virtuosic in Roxburgh’s often taxing music. The final result is always immensely rewarding.

Two of the works recorded here were written for young pianists, although the composer stresses that the Two Pieces (for young pianists) are obviously "aimed at a more mature age group" than Les Miroirs de Miró. The two sets make for a highly rewarding musical experience, both on the players’ part and on the listener’s. This is, I believe, the mark of a true master.

On the other hand, all the other works, from the early Introduction and Arabesques (1963) to the imposing Piano Sonata (1993), are overtly devised for strongly equipped professional musicians. The earliest work, Introduction and Arabesques, perfectly lives up to its title. The music "goes in search of a settled point, only constantly diverted by the arabesques" (the composer’s words). Labyrinth, composed in 1970, was written both to accompany a performance of Debussy’s first book of Préludes by Richard Burnett and to demonstrate the possibilities of the piano used on that occasion, a Bösendorfer Imperial Grand. The music thus sets out to explore the wide expressive range of the instrument, while preserving its own poetic concerns. Much the same can be said of the Six Etudes (1980), that again explore a wide range of pianistic techniques, while aiming – first and foremost – at expression. As I mentioned earlier, Roxburgh’s music calls for a good deal of technical virtuosity, but never at the expense of purely musical and poetic content. The Piano Sonata is in a single movement falling into three contrasting sections. The basic material is drawn from a three-note cell (B natural, G sharp, G natural) from Berg’s Drei Orchesterstücke Op.6 ; the ensuing motivic material is derived from these intervals. This information is drawn from the composer’s insert notes. The music unfolds with considerable inner logic from its fragmentary opening to a strongly assertive conclusion. Prelude and Toccata, commissioned by Thalia Myers, is an attempt "to rejuvenate a classical form". The whole perfectly lives up to its title and its intention.

The very name Reflets dans la Glace obviously points towards Debussy, to whom the composer pays heartfelt tribute yet avoids imitation. The music is pure Roxburgh throughout. Each of the three movements, of which the third Reflets dans la Glace was written somewhat earlier as an independent work, is neatly characterised, and again explores a wide range of expression.

This richly varied and attractive programme is beautifully performed by several pianists, who all have a close working association with the composer and his music. The whole is nicely recorded. This CD is self-commending to all lovers of Roxburgh’s music as well as to all those who relish beautifully written and expressive piano music. As far as I am concerned, this is one of the finest discs of piano music that I have heard recently.

Hubert Culot

see also review by Gary Higginson



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