- Sonata for piano in F Minor, Op 8 - Howard Ferguson - Raphael Terroni
- Discovery for voice & piano, Op 13 - Howard Ferguson - Raphael Terroni - Phillida Bannister
- Five Bagatelles for piano, Op 9 - Howard Ferguson - Raphael Terroni
- Partita for 2 pianos, Op 5b - Howard Ferguson - Raphael Terroni - Vadim Peaceman
Howard Ferguson: Piano Sonata in F minor; Discovery; Five Bagatelles; Partitaby Raphael Terroni
Belfast-born composer Howard Ferguson has been a good candidate for revival now that the modernist choke hold has been broken; his music has been little heard in recent decades, but between the world wars it was a common presence on concert programs in the British Isles. The "Piano Sonata in F minor, Op. 8," that opens this Naxos release was premiered and subsequently… See more details below
Belfast-born composer Howard Ferguson has been a good candidate for revival now that the modernist choke hold has been broken; his music has been little heard in recent decades, but between the world wars it was a common presence on concert programs in the British Isles. The "Piano Sonata in F minor, Op. 8," that opens this Naxos release was premiered and subsequently championed by no less than Myra Hess. Ferguson's music was, in the words of annotator Richard Whitehouse, "inherently yet never defensively conservative," and his response to contemporary trends took various forms including, in the end, silence; he stopped composing in 1959, although he lived for four decades after that. The four works recorded here differ from each other stylistically. The "Piano Sonata," an intense work written after the death of Ferguson's mentor, pianist Howard Samuel, weaves elaborate motivic development into its Romantic and tonal language, suggesting perhaps what Brahms might have sounded like if he had lived 75 years later and been British. The "Five Bagatelles, Op. 9," are perhaps the strongest pieces on the program. Based on five-note motifs suggested, perhaps as a sort of friendly challenge, by South African composer Arnold van Wyk, they are tight little lyric pieces, each about a minute long, without a hint of sentimentality. The "Partita for two pianos, Op. 5b" (the work also exists in an orchestral version), is a sort of fantasia on the Baroque dance movements the title suggests, and the song cycle "Discovery, Op. 13" (for which no texts are provided, apparently even online, and in the readings by Phillida Bannister they're needed), moves in a more chromatic direction. Pianist Raphael Terroni, one of several young performers exploring the large corpus of British 20th century music, finds the tension and rigor beneath Ferguson's seemingly conventional surfaces.
- Release Date:
Performance CreditsRaphael Terroni Primary Artist
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This is my first experience with the Belfast-born composer Howard Ferguson (1908-1999) and I am pleasantly surprised to have made this 'discovery.' While modernist music, especially solo piano or piano-accompanied solo voice pieces, are not my favorite, this disc's music begs to be listened to more closely each time. With each additional hearing, I'm finding more to be appreciated. The pain and grief-ridden Piano Sonata in F (1940) is immensely moving from the opening chords. Pianist Raphael Terroni has a confident, crisp touch on the keyboard, if maybe a little stiff. But the emotion of the piece is evident. This may be the most 'romantic' piece on the disc. Discovery (1951) is a piano and voice piece and is my least favorite on the disc. Though contralto Phillida Bannister does a wonderful job with the vocal lines, modernist 'melodies' are typically not to my taste. The voice recording is excellent. Five Bagatelles (1944), though short, is my favorite piece on the disc. It is reminiscent of Schumann's Dichterliebe song, where the melodies don't necessarily resolve. Still, it is emotionally stirring. Partita for two pianos (1936) is a piece that I disliked at the start, but have come to appreciate with subsequent listenings. There are dissonant starts and stops in the music that I find jarring, but it is also just these qualities that make it so special. Vadim Peaceman joins Terroni on the second piano. The recording is very high in clarity, though the piano itself seems distant and detached as recorded in the highly esteemed Wyastone Concert Hall. While the sound is brilliant, it lacks a degree of warmth I would have appreciated for solo piano work.