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Posted October 1, 2010
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.