20th Century British Piano Music

WILLIAM ALWYN (1905-1985): 12 Preludes, PETER DICKINSON (b.1934): Paraphrase II, ANTHONY HERSCHEL HILL (1939-2016): Litany*, Toccata*, ELISABETH LUTYENS (1906-1983): The Ring of Bone, FREDERICK DELIUS (1862-1934): Nocturne (arr. Robert Threlfall [1922-2018]), Margot la Rouge (arr. Maurice Ravel [1875-1937]). * - First Recordings.

Catalogue Number: 05U050

Label: SOMM

Reference: SOMMCD 0196

Format: CD

Price: $18.98

Description: This is a thoroughly approachable, fine cross-section of seldom heard 20th Century British piano music. It’s a little hard to follow the pianist's argument - something to do with the diversity of the field (it’s a lot more diverse than this) and embracing versus rejecting tradition (nothing here is anywhere near the end of any spectrum you can think of). Better just to enjoy fine performances of mostly tonal (with one notable exception; you already know who that is from the track listing), idiomatic and characterful pieces. Dickinson, as usual, is stylistically far-ranging in his Paraphrase II, very free variations on a motet of his own that set a poem about St Mark. In a post-modern style that draws influences from all over the map, the composer presents a cyclic arc that takes in a music-box 2-part invention, a resonant adagio engloutie, and a vigorous toccata based on the rather austere and severe theme as presented at the outset. Hill's two pieces from the 1990s are neo-Romantic, the first solemn, suggestive of the resonant spaces of some great cathedral; the second a vigorous showpiece. The Ring of Bone is an exercise in austerity; Lutyens showing that powerful emotional impact is in no wise dependent on the Romanticism that she made such a public display of despising. Nothing folky-wolky, modal, or even remotely related to a cor anglé here! What there is, is a bleak, chilling poem - a kind of free line-unit palindrome - by the composer, set, as it were, in a frame of burnished bone. Alwyn's brief, attractive character pieces in different keys - or as he described his partially modal approach, "note groups with a tonal centre" - have not suffered from a surfeit of recordings, so a new one is welcome. Nathan Williamson (piano).

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