Dunelm Records released an Air and two Fantasies by John
Pitts on DRD0238.
Now here we have the full set of fourteen on this disc, with two
and the Toccata, in authoritative and tremendously agile
performances by Steven Kings.
Pitts studied at Bristol and Manchester
and in 2003 won the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Martin Musical
Scholarship Fund Composition Prize. He composes for a wide
range of forces, chamber, solo piano, choral included.
So much for a
potted biography, what about the music? Seven Airs and
Fantasias was composed between 1992 and 2007. They can
played in individually, in pairs or as a full set. Melodic
and engaging these are delightful pieces. The first air is
fulsomely melodic whilst its fantasia has a tick-tocking warmth
that moves off into mellower more swinging lyricism. The second
Air is Satie-drenched whilst the second Fantasie uses a prepared
piano – it’s a kind of chime study with Chinoiserie elements.
The third air sounds like reharmonised Chopin, affectionately
sad with vestigial Rachmaninovian chording maybe. There are
Francophile tints in Air 4 and minimalist dynamism animates
the increasingly exciting Air 5 with its strong left hand
‘pillars’ and vaguely French deftness. Whereas there’s quite
a sturdy English buoyancy to Air 5; Fantasie 5 meanwhile relates
to the first, second and fourth fantasies in its exploration
of tintinabulism. The sixth Fantasie is explicitly minimalist
whilst the seventh air offers Pitts’s ‘twisted’ harmonies
– which sounds a bit Morton Feldman-like but you should consult
his website for further information on that point. The last
Fantasie offers an almost obsessive chordal concentration.
It ends a cycle of verve, imagination, as well as colouristic
and rhythmic vivacity – and shows Pitts as honouring a wide
lineage whilst absorbing it into his own schema very successfully.
twenty nifty fingers) is a fiendishly minimalistic workout
for Kings and the composer, who adds his own ten digits to
the pottage. It’s three minutes of pile driving energy and
brilliantly exciting. The Toccata (Blue Frenzy) is
longer and more malleable. It’s strong and tensile but from
around the four minute mark becomes more deliberate. Outbursts
though are vivid and as for its ethos, let’s just say that
if Nancarrow’s player piano mated with Leo Ornstein, and Albert
Ammons’s boogie-woogie piano was on an overdose of uppers
it might sound a bit like this. Galvanizing stuff!
I’ve also checked
out the extra (review) download as well, Are You Going?
for thirty nifty fingers which is based on Scarborough
Fair. It’s a toccata boogie of unstoppable, unquenchable
verve and you will find it on the composer’s website.
all round – vital, energising, but sensitive when need be.
Toes – prepare to tap.
see also review by John