EDWARD BURLINGAME HILL (1872-1960): Piano Sonata in F Sharp Minor, Piano Sonata No. 2 “after Kipling’s “Light that Failed”, Bagatelle, Quasi Minuetto, Impromptu, Lullaby for Millicent and her Mother, Chimes, Prelude, Toccatina and Scherzino, Toccata giocosa, Quasi Polonaise.
Catalogue Number: 05T050
Description: Musical archæology is always fascinating, but it is especially rewarding when it unearths genuine treasure, as is increasingly apparently the case with the rehabilitation of Hill, a particularly egregiously neglected member of the 'lost generation' of American composers. Teacher of Leonard Bernstein, Walter Piston, Roger Sessions, Irving Fine, Ross Lee Finney, and Elliott Carter, and highly regarded as a pioneering educator, and a versatile and individual composer, he had all but vanished from view by the time of his death. In the past several years, pioneering recordings have cast light on his contributions to orchestral music (01Q002) and chamber music (01R010); this excellent release now explores the breadth and quality of his output for piano, mostly existing only in manuscript (all the pieces here), and all previously unrecorded. The disc begins and ends with his two substantial extant sonatas, both early works in Romantic, MacDowellesque mold, and both fine examples of Hill's instinctive grasp of form, structure and the drama inherent in traditional structures. Both are big-boned, emotionally fulsome works, the second lent additional piquancy by Hill's adaptation of the work's form to accommodate a distinct programmatic element; the work is based on the characters and narrative of an early novel, a picturesque tragedy, by Rudyard Kipling. The other pieces show Hill in his most natural and personal idiom; highly chromatic, tonal miniatures of no particular 'school' but often bearing the imprint of the exploratory approach to harmony of his beloved 'Modern French Music' on which he wrote and lectured with encyclopædic knowledge. Exquisitely crafted and pianistically challenging, always to expressive, musical ends and the evocation of image, these pieces encompass lively scherzi and toccatas, a lovely, simple lullaby, and at least two pieces of considerable substance; the evocative, Lisztian Chimes and the stunning, highly original Quasi Polonaise. Nothing here is less than a delight, reflecting the delight of a composer who spoke of his craft as a 'vice' which he could not resist, in the act of creation and communication. Donna Amato (piano).