Jane Chapman is a harpsichord virtuoso who gives new life to
her instrument through commissioning contemporary repertoire.
This selection of works for harpsichord and electronics is far
removed from the music of the baroque era, demonstrating a new
dimension to the instrument and revealing its relevance to the
Paul Whitty’s machine-like Seven Pages1
and end the disc. Based on Ligeti’s Continuum
has intervened in the original music to create something which
sounds entirely new. The strings have been removed from the instrument
so that only the sound of the mechanism is heard; this is a fascinating
sound and one which has powerful effect. Both pieces are extremely
effective and encourage us to see the harpsichord in a new way.
Next comes birl
, a short, complex toccata-like work by
James Dillon, which blasts onto the scene and disappears almost
as abruptly as it begins. Roger Redgate’s nine-minute work, Residua
a six movement piece, based on the writings of Beckett. Material
is shared between the movements and some of the ideas themselves
come from Redgate’s earlier works. It would take multiple
hearings to perceive the connections between the movements, but
even without a conscious awareness there is a feeling of coherence
and overall direction which is highly effective.
Paul Dibley’s INV III
is described as for ‘harpsichord
and pure data’, using an interactive computer system to
process the harpsichord sound. The live instrument is heard alongside
generated sound based on its own materials, resulting in a magically
developing resonance. The effect is remarkable. This eventually
breaks away into a section where the live and computer-generated
sounds are clearly defined, providing a stark contrast in texture.
Here the electronic sounds are less convincing, but the music
builds up again and some eerie effects are created which are
both atmospheric and memorable. INV I
is for harpsichord
and tape, and the two layers of sound are clearly defined, despite
timbral similarities and some live processing. This is a highly
effective work which seems to take the harpsichord into an extended
version of itself through the electronic material.
by Paul Newland provides a welcome contrast, with
space around each of the pitches to hear subtle nuances. The
piece requires retuning of the harpsichord’s strings, creating
pitch bends; other sounds are made from the inside of the instrument
rather than the keyboard. An EBow is used to produce continuous
sounds as a drone effect. The apparent simplicity of this work
is extremely effective, and one has the sense that the instrument
is being explored in new ways. 3-4
has a similar effect,
making wider use of the EBow and once again providing a contrast
with the works around it.
Mike Vaughan returns us to more traditional use of the instrument,
but accompanied by some interesting electronic sounds in his
work, In Memoriam….(layer 6).
A tribute to Eric Dolphy,
the music is part-improvised and part-composed. The live electronics
respond to a pre-determined set of sounds played by the live
harpsichord. The overall effect is complex but imaginative, with
new sounds emerging in the electronics part and creating a coherent
whole with the live instrument.
Sohrab Uduman, like Mike Vaughan, is a professor of composition
at Keele University. Using harpsichord and live electronics, Breath
across autumnal ground
describes seasonal transformations
in colour, using musical means to explore a changing landscape.
The transformations work well, and the opening simplicity develops
into more complex textures of trills and building resonances.
Sam Haydn’s Scintilla
is a set of three short and
explosive movements for solo harpsichord. Based on the analysis
of sound samples, the musical material is bright and sparkling,
and the brevity of each movement adds a certain charm, leaving
the listener wanting more.
Jane Chapman’s playing is excellent throughout, and her
work developing new repertoire for her instrument is worthy of
recognition. Through this disc, she has proved that the harpsichord
is as valid an instrument for contemporary composition as any
other, and demonstrated some of the new sounds available to composers
for exploration. Thoroughly fascinating.