Inner Landscapes PFCD040
Douglas Finch - Piano and Chamber Music 1984-2013
“Douglas Finch may derive his inspiration ostensibly from remote places, but what his art radiates is an intensely personal vision. The patterns and textures of his music draw us into a world whose beauty keeps us gently spellbound: this is an endlessly beguiling place to dwell.” - Michael Church, The Independent.
"Fine threads tie the music of the final bars [of 'Ruins'] to its surroundings with a special kind of fragility, filled with longing – an untold story – like an abandoned spider’s web grasping delicately at its surroundings". Adam Fergler, Without Barlines blog, 22 May 2016. http://adamfergler.eu/review-douglas-finch-inner-landscapes/
The first ever recording of Douglas Finch's piano and chamber music is now available on Prima Facie label. Inner Landscapes: Piano and Chamber Music 1984-2013 offers an exquisite and compelling portrait of this important Canadian-British composer.
'Inner Landscapes' draws upon the art of the Canadian painter, Emily Carr, whose work features on the CD's cover. In particular, the feelings of “loneliness and quiet rapture” in her paintings drew Finch in, revealing his affinity with the themes of solitude, mourning and spiritual longing. The ten works on this disc each capture an 'inner world' of a particular landscape - in Canada, Germany, North Wales and New York. Douglas Finch is a renowned improviser and pianist as well as composer, and most pieces on this debut CD grew out of ideas resulting from his improvisations.
Performed by the Canadian flautist Lisa Nelsen (“a flautist and a half” - The Times newspaper), the pianist Aleksander Szram, cellist Caroline Szram, and the violinists Mieko Kanno and Toby Tramaseur, the music spans Finch's compositional output from his early 20s, when he lived in Canada, to the present, after he moved to the UK in 1993.
“This music is inward-looking and deeply personal, though the world it looks into is cavernous, elusive and unending, a sound-world quite unlike any that I have so far encountered.” Aleksander Szram, piano.
Panorama: 1919-2013 (PFCD048)
A Century of British Keyboard Music, performed on the harpsichord by Penelope Cave. Includes compositions by Delius, Holst, Bax, Pitfield, Maxwell Davies and Raymond Head.
Like the patchwork of fields seen from a plane, the British repertoire within this recording offers an overview of the landscape of what is sometimes referred to as music of the early keyboard revival. The individual pieces are mostly miniatures that draw, to varying degrees, on the vast body of past keyboard repertoire, and yet celebrate the harpsichord as a relevant, modern instrument. ‘Panorama’, the title of the final piece of the CD, also describes these aerial snapshots from each decade from 1919 to 2013.
The English term, "Fancy", is an apt title for much of the music that displays a fanciful re-evaluation of the past. In the war-torn early part of the twentieth century, there was a nostalgia for lost national culture. A trend for ‘Mock Tudor’ was exemplified in vernacular architecture; Cecil Sharp was collecting folk-songs before they disappeared; whilst recorder-music and maypole-dances were revived for celebratory pageants for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Classical composers, such as Vaughan Williams, utilised music contemporary with the first Queen Elizabeth, along with British folk-tunes. The English 'Scarlatti Sect' seems to have a continuous line of descent going back to the first publication of his sonatas in London, in 1738/9, and his influence can still be detected in some of these pieces. Collections of ancient instruments were being established and, as the twentieth-century progressed, copies of original historic keyboards, including virginals and clavichords, were proliferating. In the 1970s and 1980s, the building of harpsichords based on French models led to a rediscovery of French ornamentation, and good copies of these instruments, that concentrated more particularly on sound, per se, re-invigorated a compositional fusion of current international styles with tropes of the past.
Inevitably, in writing for the harpsichord or clavichord, composers look back from their own standpoint of the present, applying their knowledge, experience and imagination to the task of revisiting the past. Many of these short pieces may only have been intended to supply a taste of a quaint instrument, or a glimpse of a bygone age; some are now historic, themselves, and ready to be re-evaluated or re-marginalised. If any of this music already feels 'dated', that is, perhaps, its value; it tells much of a century of change and upheaval, where holding on to the past seemed both a place of safety and comfort, and yet a source of new inspiration. Although Peter Maxwell Davies was looking ahead rather than back, his protest against the ruination of Orkney, merged a present dread with a future nostalgia.
Postcards from Prague (PFCD049) £12.50
Pieces for solo double bass and double bass duets performed by David Heyes, Ben Groeneveldt and Joe Prindl.
Postcards from Prague brings together music composed in 2009 and 2014 in memory of the great Czech double bass virtuoso František Pošta (1919-1991), who would have celebrated his 95th birthday that year. I had the great privilege of studying with František in Prague in 1986, shortly after his retirement from the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra where he had been Principal Bass for over 40 years, and also throughout the late 1980s. František Pošta was a very exacting teacher, but also an inspirational one, and his 'singing double bass' appealed to me very much, alongside his supreme musicality and beauty of sound. I have been lucky to have studied with three amazing double bass teachers - Laurence Gray, Bronwen Naish, František Pošta - who each taught in completely different ways and helped me to develop as a musician and to explore the many solo possibilities of the double bass.
František Pošta performed a wide range of music but was also interested to increase the repertoire by commissioning a number of Czech composers to write for the double bass. He chose his composers carefully, selecting ones who could create idiomatic music which emphasised the lyrical and cantabile qualities of the instrument. His activities inspired me to do the same and over the past 30 years I have commissioned more than 500 works for double bass, from beginner to virtuoso and from one bass to twenty, and am humbled to have received over 300 dedications. Many composers have written more than one work for me and I am pleased to have excellent working relationships with many throughout the world, including Teppo Hauta-aho (Finland), Tony Osborne (UK), Bernard Salles (France), Armand Russell (USA), Simon Garcia (Spain), John Alexander (UK), Eric Funk (USA), Sadie Harrison (Australia) and David Ellis (UK).
Since František Pošta's death I have organised a memorial concert every five years, which has featured Czech music for double bass alongside works by the Finnish composer-bassist, Teppo Hauta-aho, who studied in Prague in the 1960s. This CD is a celebration of the life and career of František Pošta and also looking to the future with music of great scope and breadth which I hope is a fitting tribute to this unique musician and person.
Prima Facie Records
CD label featuring world premières by British composers.
Prima Facie is the meeting of two minds - Giles Easterbrook and Stephen Plews - both known in the music industry as champions of new music. They have produced or promoted hundreds of projects, many of which have won awards or been recognised as outstanding contributions to the arts.