One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,928 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider


paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas
All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Salon Treasures from the Max Jaffa Library



Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Discs for review may be sent to:
Jonathan Woolf
76 Lushes Road
Essex IG10 3QB
United Kingdom



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

Eloquence recordings
All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month

July 2022

John Luther Adams Houses of the Wind
John Luther Adams
Houses of the Wind

Horneman Alladin
Horneman Alladin

Stojowski piano concertos
Piano Concertos 1 & 2

Vaughan Williams on Brass

Yi Lin Jiang - Dualis I

June 2022

Beethoven Sonatas 29, 32

Orchestral Works

String Quartets Vol 1




CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS
Sound Samples and Downloads

Kenneth LEIGHTON (1929 – 1988)
Works for Solo Piano:-
Sonata Op.64 (1971-72) [22:36]
Preludes for Piano (1988) [12:17]
Winter Scenes (1953) [19:31]
Sonata No.3 Op.27 (1954) [15:50]
Margaret Fingerhut (piano)
rec. Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, England, 27-28 October 2009
CHANDOS CHAN 10601 [70:16]

Experience Classicsonline
This is an exemplary disc in every respect, Chandos are carrying something of a torch for Kenneth Leighton at the moment. Their series of discs of orchestral music is revealing new riches with every volume now supported by this superb disc. Margaret Fingerhut has long been a favourite pianist of mine and her typically clean, powerful and articulate playing is ideally suited to the sound-world of this composer. She does have serious competition; on Delphian, Angela Brownridge – a Leighton pupil – has recorded a 2 CD set of the complete published works that has been very well received on this site and elsewhere. I had not heard a note of Leighton’s solo piano music prior to this Chandos disc landing on my mat so I am not in a position to make comparisons. Judged solely on its own merits these performances are compelling, convincing and utterly involving.

It is about time that all of Leighton’s oeuvre came in for serious re-evaluation. My first encounter and awareness of the scale of his work as a composer were the earlier Chandos recordings of the Symphony No.3 and the Cello Concerto. Somehow, under the radar slipped the first volume of Fingerhut’s survey of the solo piano music, which was recorded some 11 years ago – a disc I will be seeking out as a result of my enjoyment of this one. Leighton sounds quite unlike any other English piano music composer. There is a terseness, a desire to write music of maximum intensity yet using minimum musical verbosity, that is superbly impressive. Try the very opening of the disc for a perfect example of what I mean. Although simply titled Sonata Op.64 this was actually his fourth and last essay in the form completed in 1972. Leighton’s own description is so perfect that I quote it in full; “[the piece] attempts to express a search for stillness amid the conflict and turmoil of experience.” The opening paints a bleak unforgiving landscape in which stunted musical phrases grow. This opening also demonstrates the qualities of the performance and recording. The piano fills the sound-stage while allowing the subtleties and range of colour that Fingerhut finds to register clearly. As the music gathers momentum Fingerhut’s ability to delineate strands within complex passages becomes ever more clear. Although clearly his own man a couple of times during this movement I found myself recalling the music of Frederic Rzewski – who is only nine or so years younger than Leighton – or some of the Latin-American piano composers. There is a pounding mechanistic energy here in the bulk of the movement – somewhat surprisingly given the tempo indication lento e chiaro – that is really exciting. The second movement, Chorale with Contrasts again uses sparsely expressive material over gently tolling bell-like chords. The final Toccatas and Chorale returns to the nervous muscularity of the opening. Here Fingerhut’s dynamic range is stunning and her easy control of complex meters is simply superb. The cumulative excitement of this movement is utterly compelling and the final dissolution into another frozen landscape similar to the opening is beautifully achieved – a thrilling opening to the disc.

I am not sure I realised that Leighton had died so tragically young – just 58 when he succumbed to cancer of the oesophagus. Yet even to the end the compulsion to compose burned bright. The Five Preludes, which come next in the programme, were composed in his final year under the shadow of the disease. They were part of a projected cycle of twenty-four preludes following Bach’s plan of alternating major and minor keys. Many of the same keyboard characteristics are here as in the previous Sonata. The serenity and simple beauty of the Prelude in D major [track 5] and the Prelude in E flat minor [track 6] in particular are disarmingly powerful. To find such other-worldly calm in the face of one’s own mortality I find hugely moving. Again the key lies in the utter economy of expression. The final prelude in this set is more expansive, frustratingly so in the sense it promises what else might have come if only Leighton had lived.

The appeal for collectors who already have the Brownridge set are the two works that make up the second half of the programme. These are the unpublished early Winter Scenes and Sonata No.3 from 1954 and as such don’t appear in the Delphian complete published piano works set. Although the Winter Scenes date from just some eight months before (December 1953) the following sonata they occupy a simpler uncomplicated world. This is reflected by the movement titles that owe more to an Alec Rowley Suite than anything one would normally associate with Kenneth Leighton: Woodsprites, By the Fireside and Carol are just some examples. Yes, this is less knotty music and at points more obviously illustrative. Given its relatively early position in the body of work perhaps it is not that surprising that Leighton’s musical personality seems less clearly defined. In The Wind and Mist [tracks 10 and 11] the influence of Debussy appears which is quite absent in the later works. But even allowing for that these are beautiful finely wrought miniatures in their own right. Woodsprites contains some of the most light-hearted music on the disc – a gentle waltz in the left hand with arabesquing figurations above. Again Fingerhut displays total technical control as well as demonstrating a light-fingered aptness. Her ability to gauge the mood of a piece and adjust her playing accordingly is perfection.

Quite why Leighton should have felt the need to withdraw his Sonata No.3 Op.27 just prior to publication is not clear – the liner states the composer had a “change of heart”. With the benefit of hindsight one can only conclude he was his own sternest critic. For sure he is still seeking a fully individual voice and perhaps he would achieve a greater control of form and content in later works but this is no apprentice work. Its gaunt forbidding power is instantly impressive and compelling. He starts to experiment with the use of serial techniques but rather than abiding by the strict letter of the law regarding serial form he uses the twelve semitones of the standard scale equally in a way that liberates the tonality and emphasises chromaticism and heightened levels of dissonance. Perhaps his concern at the time was more to do with the fact that this music fell between the opposing schools of the then-derided ‘Cheltenham’ composers and the rigours of the post-War modernists. It’s a chasm into which several British composers – Benjamin Frankel particularly springs to mind – disappeared, their music failing to please or find support from either camp. Thank goodness that both Leighton and Frankel – and others - are now receiving the recognition and acclaim their powerful and personal music deserves. But back to this Sonata; the opening Andante instantly sets a serious mood with a snaking sinuous uneasy, harmonically shifting theme. The pulse of the movement soon quickens into a passage that in its contrapuntal writing feels like Bach meets the 2nd Viennese School. The drama of the movement is held in check, initially at least the climaxes being structural rather than emotional. But it would be quite wrong to imply that this is in any way dry or academic – Leighton’s skill is the balance he finds between the head and the heart, I like very much how the movement dissolves to a calm serenity before a final simple consonant chord. The following Lento Sostenuto is another masterly display of maximum effect through minimum means. Again the ghost of Bach, perhaps this time in the form of some distorted angst-ridden Chorale Prelude over an ominously tolling bell in the piano’s left hand. All of that is my invention but aided by Fingerhut’s ability to clarify lines and counterpoints with brilliant ease. Gradually the tolling bell idea dominates the music and a powerful climax is reached. Concision is the key throughout – this feels like a much bigger work than its fifteen minute time-span would imply. Much as in the first movement, the music almost stumbles to an uneasy rather abrupt close. The third movement is exactly as titled – an Intermezzo. Not that it is without shadows either but generally the mood has lightened and at little more than two minutes it is the shortest movement in the sonata by some way. The Presto, molto ritmico finale bristles with virtuosic energy. Perhaps it lacks some of the lean terseness that so impressed in the sonata that opened the disc, certainly the accompanying figures are far fuller and busier and ultimately less impressive. Again Fingerhut sounds utterly at ease with any technical hurdle thrown in her way and the recording copes easily with the thicker textures that Leighton has written. This is still a powerful and impressive work and an exciting end to the disc but it does sound like more of a transitional work in comparison to the mastery of the Sonata Op.64.

Collectors new to Leighton’s piano music – as I was - can buy with confidence that this is a Chandos disc in the best traditions of the label. For those already possessing the Delphian set the ‘new’ music is a useful appendix to the published works without commanding compulsory purchase status. However Fingerhut’s interpretations of all the music here is of the very highest order so some duplication might be in order.

Nick Barnard

And a further review – by Rob Barnett:-

Margaret Fingerhut, like Lydia Artymiw, was with Chandos during their earliest days. Fingerhut has been a constant presence while Artymiw moved to pastures new.

While some companies manage train-wrecks in design terms Chandos are consistently daring and successful in their abstemious approach to visual detailing. The stark cover for this disc tells us a great deal about the company and a great deal that is good.

We start this Leighton collection with The piano sonata op. 64. It was written for the pianist Peter Wallfisch who premiered and performed many of Leighton's works from the 1950s. The Sonata is haunted by and seasoned with dissonance. Crucially it's buffeted by the passions and especially by a sort of stalking predatory anxiety. Gentle bell-like dissonances are also in play in the fractured slowly- evolving kaleidoscope of the central Chorale. Negation and motoric energy rack the exciting finale until, violence-spent, the work dissolves in a desultory quiet twinkle.

The 1988 Preludes were written in the year of his death. The D minor is jazzy, ruthless and offset with flowing tributaries of notes. The D major speaks of contentment, lush meadows and a seeming gradient accelerating down a steep and precipitous face. It is as if the contentment was written in the shadow of something awful. The E flat minor sports a melancholy and hypnotic coolness. The C major is like a hyperactive water wag-tail - delightful and not breathless but certainly virtuosic. The C minor is a more ferocious and defiant. Its pugnacious mood is soon established and then sustained. It sounds a little like the Ferguson piano sonata. Leighton completed only five of an intended set of 24 preludes.

Then we come to two premiere recordings.

Winter Scenes from 1953 is written in a more accessible language, caught somewhere between Finzi in his piano writing for the songs and Howard Ferguson. The first is a cut-glass and earth- stood-hard-as-iron landscape. There’s then a fervent fast-flying feroce called The Wind. Then comes the twinkling Mist, as vivid a picture of mystery as any film score. In fact, if orchestrated, it would make an ideal accompaniment to a fogbound forest scene. Woodsprites is rather capricious and much in the manner of Cyril Scott’s many miniatures. By the Fireside is a ‘Werther’s Original’ romantic scene. It could have been written to order and specification and is all very atmospheric and cosy. Snowflakes's flurries of glinting notes has about it a passing touch of Medtner but it’s lightly applied. The final Carol is again Finzian. This is all very different from the later works and would go down well as an orchestrated suite of light but delicately imaginative music.

The Piano Sonata No 3 op. 27 is in four movements. This is much tougher music and while always having a rhetorical-heroic face it is as satisfyingly involuted as the sonata op 64 and the preludes. The sonata ends with a sometimes Mussorgskian Presto-Brillante which again has the determined heroic face of the Ferguson sonata.

Rob Barnett



Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.