SYDNEY HODKINSON (b.1934): Potpourri: 11 Very Short Pieces, Epitaphion (St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra; Vladimir Lande), Piano Concerto No. 1 "A Shifting Trek" (Barry Snyder [piano], Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra; Petr Vronsky).
Catalogue Number: 08P072
Label: Navona Records
Description: Hodkinson's idiom is an unusually diverse and eclectic one, highly effective in its expressive capabilities, though hard to categorise. At the more radically modernist end of his personal spectrum is an unabashed freedom from tonality, with extended passages in which thematic and harmonic content are determined through a kind of organic growth, with development occurring more through association of related or contrasting ideas than through progressing tonal relationhips. But then, just as one settles in for the rigors of a thoroughly modern æsthetic, the composer provides something like the invigorating, thoroughly tonal allegro first movement of the Concerto (following an ambiguous, if impressive, introduction), or some of the little character pieces of Potpourri, with their neo-romantic or jazzy idioms. Wrong-footing the listener like this is a recurring feature of the music; the Concerto's slow movement starts in an harmonic no-man's land, but in a series of variation-like treatments of a recurring theme, becomes by turns bluesy, melodic, and dissonantly but richly harmonized, before gravitating to a firmly tonal center. The energetic finale, with clearly defined tonality and much lively syncopation, follows without a break and hurtles to an exciting conclusion. Epitaphion is a meditation on the loss of friends and colleagues of the composer. A sombre chordal hymn alternates with angry, dissonant protest; the second half of the work is very tonal, with the hymn presented as a stately, sorrowing chorale, obscured by mysterious, sepulchral dissonant textures. Computer-readable files on the disc contain full study scores and brief notes on the music.