JOSEPH FENNIMORE (b.1940): 24 Romances, Piano Sonata No. 5, 3 Pieces, Passacalle, Sonatinella.
Catalogue Number: 10R069
Reference: TROY 1587/88
Description: Fennimore's piano pieces are effortlessly entertaining and appealing, in a tonal, neoromantic language that admits a good deal of chromaticism. The very title of the large set of pieces - 'Romances'- immediately suggests several important things about them; that the composer is confident enough in his expressive and technical skills not to be afraid of accusations of 'lightness' or 'old-fashioned-ness’; that the works will emphasize imagination and freedom of content over any kind of formal strictures; and that they are written to be enjoyed, with a direct appeal to the senses and emotions. All these characteristics are amply confirmed every turn. Influences are almost too numerous to mention; they are consistent, though as varied as the pieces themselves; Chopin, Rachmaninov (to whom the 9th Romance is a tribute, containing a pianist-composer's revenge for the torrents of abuse poured on the Russian master for the unfortunate coincidental resemblance of a theme from his Fourth Piano Concerto to a children's song), and a strong vein of French music - Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc. Sometimes the music takes on an air of popular melody, though invariably with a knowing wink and subversion of the idiom with some inappropriate harmonies. The pieces were written over a substantial span of time, and seem to encapsulate a similarly wide range of experience, like a kind of musical diary. The Pieces similarly blend great sophistication and compositional and pianistic virtuosity with engaging accessibility, as does the witty little Sonatinella, while the substantial sonata, in conventional formal layout, places the composer's lucid, varied stylistic kaleidoscope at the service of a larger structural narrative. The elegant and inventive Passacalle spins 24 variations and a final cortège over a rather austere scalar theme that moves around in register and is disguised by rhythmic alterations. 2 CDs. Jeffrey Middleton (piano).