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Download: Classicsonline

Graham FITKIN (b. 1963)
Circuit (2002)a [19:48]
T1 (1999)b [7:28]
Relent (1998)c [11:08]
Carnal (1993)d [11:43]
From Yellow to Yellow (1985)e [1:33]
White (2004, rev. 2007)f [4:33]
Furniture (1989)g [5:48]
T2 (1999)h [4:34]
Kathryn Stott (piano)abcfh; Noriko Ogawa (piano)abdefgh
Tokyo Symphony Orchestra/Naoto Otomoa
rec. MUZA Kawasaki Hall, Japan, September 2007
BIS BIS-SACD-1517 [68:36]

Experience Classicsonline

I have already had the opportunity to review some of Fitkin’s music here some time ago. Here comes a brand new disc including works for one and two pianos as well as a substantial work for two pianos and orchestra, the whole spanning some ten years or so of his present output.

This release opens with the fairly imposing Circuit for two pianos and orchestra. It was composed in 2002 for the present soloists who gave the première in Manchester with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. To a certain extent this might be regarded as a concerto although much of the music rather makes it a substantial Toccata with a central slower section. The piece opens with heavily pounding chords on both pianos, first at unison but rhythms soon get more capricious. The music displays some highly adrenalin-fuelled energy moving headlong with much alacrity and exuberance. It then calms down somewhat in the central section before the reprise of the energetic music heard in the first section. Although it still possesses some minimalist touches the music is strictly worked-out and travels though different territories of a less minimalist kind. What impresses most, however, is the sheer energy of most of it. This is the sort of work that should become highly popular with pianists and audiences alike.

T1 and T2 for two pianos were completed in 1999 as part of a sequence of music written for the composer’s residency at Tate St Ives. They form a strongly contrasted diptych although they may not have been conceived as such. T1 is a slow-moving piece devised to exploit the venue of Tate St Ives. The music mostly consists in repetitive gestures interspersed with ‘resonating’ silences, for lack of a better word. On the other hand T2 is much more rhythmically alive with joyously bouncing rhythms. White was written originally for a summer school on the Suzuki method. The original version of 2004 was for four pianos whereas the version for two pianos was made for this recording. It is a fairly simple and straightforward piece and the music may be the most overtly minimalist although it does not lack contrast.

Relent, written for Kathryn Stott, is a fairly substantial piece for piano that may be regarded as a virtuosic Toccata. It opens with lively rhythms. The music moves headlong relentlessly but contrast is nevertheless achieved by way of dynamic changes. This is an impressive and demanding piece that may sometimes bring Prokofiev to mind. Carnal sets out on a different journey in that the music constantly contrasts fast and loud, and slow and quiet. Again the fast sections have a strong Toccata-like character. The piece, however, ends unresolved. The earliest work here - and the composer’s earliest acknowledged work - is From Yellow to Yellow completed in 1985. This is a tiny miniature of the kind that might have been written by Howard Skempton. Furniture is another early work but again in a quite different league than most of the other ones. The music is more fragmented and mosaic-like so that one never really knows in which direction it will proceed from one episode to the next. This is a lovely work - full of surprises.

Graham Fitkin’s music is often repetitive and might be categorised as Minimalism (see here for a short biography). There is however much variety that rather tends to belie the minimalist label. It is also quite often characterised by lively, insistent, jazzy rhythms that make it readily accessible and enjoyable. Moreover it is superbly laid-out for piano which does not come as a surprise since Fitkin is an excellent pianist.

These performances are just superb as is the recording. It sounds remarkable throughout even when heard on a ‘normal’ CD player as mine. In short this is a very fine release surveying Fitkin’s output for piano with the splendid Circuit as its crowning gem. I enjoyed this enormously and I cannot but encourage anyone with a particular liking for superbly crafted piano music to investigate it and relish every moment. 

Hubert Culot






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