MALCOLM DEDMAN (b.1948): Piano Music, Vol. 1 - Piano Sonatas No. 2 “In Search” and No. 3 “To the Memory of an Angel”, Reformation, Four Kinds of Love.
Catalogue Number: 08Y032
Label: Toccata Classics
Description: Dedman was born in England and received his musical education and had much of his career there, though he has been domiciled in South Africa since 2007, and all but one of these works were written in his adopted country. In 1986 he embraced the Bahá’í Faith, which teaches the validity of all major religions as a continuity of revelations leading toward a more ideal worship of one God; all these pieces are influenced by the Bahá’í Faith in some way. Predominantly tonal, Dedman's idiom is profoundly indebted to Messiaen, and not a little to Bartók, two composers whom Dedman particularly admires; some modal melodic contours suggest the Middle and Far East, and the influence of French Impressionism cannot be ignored. Sonata No.2 (1984, when the composer was searching for spiritual enlightenment) begins with a wildly turbulent movement, very Messiaenic, followed by a spare, austere "Lamentoso" slow movement, and a tightly organised counterpoint of modal motifs, suggesting revelation beginning to dawn in the East, punctuated by ecstatic, towering chords. Reformation (2009) follows a similar arc, based on an utopian vision of the future of humankind by by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844–1921), son of the founder of the Bahá’í Faith. The first section is turbulent; the second, quiet and contemplative, in loose variation form and ending with a vision of the "Most Great Peace" toward which the Bahá’í Faith strives. Four Kinds of Love puts forward the idea of God as the ultimate exemplar of love, in four consoling, very consonant movements, harmonically lovely and instantly appealing. The first has bluesy harmonies over a persistent ostinato; the second glows ethereally, with figuration reminiscent of Ravel; the third is also impressionistic, with floating harmonies accompanying a simple, eloquent melody; the fourth an impressionistic vision of bells and limitless Heavenly vistas. The 3rd Sonata was written in 2021 in memory of the composer’s wife, who had died of cancer the previous year. The first movement uses tensions and conflicts of sonata form to express the struggles between determination, resignation, sadness, and anger. The second movement is a kind of doggedly persistent scherzo, its terse melodic phrases in close, tense interchanges. The slow movement is built on slow, meditative sequences of chords, with high-pitched melodic interjections representing spiritual guidance from above. The finale, "Fulfilment – Into the Light" reintroduces material from earlier movements and resolves it in fulfilment of the promise of the earlier struggles. Its optimistic spirit culminates in a final slow section, "conducting the soul peacefully into the next world."