This disc contains first recordings of music by three modern and one not so modern (Holst) British composers. This description does not make everyone’s heart race with excitement! However even on first listening I found it surprisingly approachable and it gained considerable with repeated hearings.
The first and most major work is Kenneth Leighton’s Prelude, Hymn and Toccata, composed in 1987. An arresting short Prelude is followed by the enigmatical Hymn. The hymn is very well hidden and in fact is the very well known Abide with me, the music is rhapsodic in form with only oblique hints at the tune. The last movement is Toccata which is highly syncopated and is almost jazz-like.
Gustav Holst had exploratory leanings and was interested in the music of India and Japan. His Japanese Suite is fairly well known in the orchestral version and was derived from old Japanese songs provided by Michio Ito a well known dancer. The version played here is by Vally Lasker who was a helper to Holst. The music is most exquisite and the Prelude (Song of the Fishermen) is quite haunting. The final Dance of the Fox draws the suite to an exciting end.
Anthony Hedges is the composer who wrote most of the pieces on the disc; he is described by Anthony Goldstone as “one of the rare breed of composer that is as much at home in the world of ‘light’ music as in that of of the ‘serious’”. His Three Explorations of 2002 is music which has an immediate appeal, but also grows on re-hearing, his Five Aphorisms of 1990 are similar in style but shorter and more compressed. The Sonata of 1974 is a more substantial work its three movements are nicely contrasted with a second movement with traces of Scriabin and a rondo-like finale.
Ronald Stevenson is represented by Two Chinese Folk Songs. These are both short works, each based upon a genuine folk song (both of which are very attractive) but careful listening shows how incredibly well crafted they are. An unusual disc, beautifully played, good recording and exceptionally good notes.