MusicWeb International

It is a great pleasure to be able to welcome a disc of unfamiliar music by a composer who is not well known but who has something to say and the ability to say it interestingly and economically.

Brian Chapple studied with Lennox Berkeley and, although his music is very different in character, it shares Berkeley’s careful craftsmanship and precision of effect. He has apparently written many orchestral and choral works, none currently available on record as well as these and other piano works. The present disc offers a useful and enjoyable overview of his music in recent years and raises the obvious question as to why music of such quality is not heard more often.

As the composer points out, the oldest piece here – the Piano Sonata – is also the most challenging to the listener … and to the performer, although it seems to hold no problems for Anthony Goldstone. It was commissioned for Julian Jacobson with funds from the Arts Council and first played at the Dartington Summer School in 1986. There is a real sense of evolution from the short opening Adagio, through a relentless Allegro, to the long finale which eventually works its way back to the character of the opening movement. I found it gripping from beginning to end, as I did the more recent “Bagatelles diverses”. Despite their name this is the longest piece here, moving again from short character pieces towards a more extended and substantial final movement. The remaining solo item – “Reliques” – dates from the First Gulf War and from the composer’s reaction to pictures of a long line of wrecked armoured vehicles with their dead occupants. I found this a powerful piece, rather after the manner of film music with its haunting echoes of bugle calls.

The remaining two pieces are for both players, and are lighter in character. The Burlesque was originally for four pianists at two pianos. It consists of four short movements, including a tango, a moto perpetuo, and a big-band style finale. The final piece is another arrangement, this time of music for saxophone quartet. Again there are four movements – even shorter and even more approachable.

I have not seen scores for any of the music, but the playing of both players seems wholly convincing, and indeed wholly at the service of the music. There are full and useful notes and the recording quality is excellent. I very much hope that Divine Art will have the success they deserve with this enterprising and very enjoyable disc. Perhaps what the composer has to say may not always be profound or original, but he says it so well and interestingly that it is a pleasure to be in his company for the duration of this disc.

—John Sheppard