Prima Facie

CDs with online ordering

Opalescence (PFCD171) £12.50

Piano and chamber music by Ruth Gipps


Sonata for cello and piano, op. 63 (1978) – world premiere recording
The Fairy Shoemaker (1929) – world premiere recording
Theme and Variations, op. 57a (1965)
The Ox and the Ass Introduction and Carol, op. 71 (1988)
Opalescence, op. 72 (1989)
Scherzo and Adagio for Unaccompanied Cello, OP. 68 (1987) – world premiere recording
Sonata for Double Bass and Piano, op. 81 (1996) – world premiere recording

Opalescence CD

"This disc ... is a real gift to the musical world at large. Superlative performances of beautiful, and often powerful, music." Colin Clarke, Classical Explorer

"The three performers bring extraordinary talent and enthusiasm to this repertoire. The sound quality of the recording is bright and immediate. The liner notes... are informative and detailed and provides everything the listener needs to know about this diverse music. This 'Centenary' release of Gipps’s music is a valuable addition to the slowly growing inventory of her recorded music." John France, MusicWeb International

"Opalescence is a worthy addition..." Freya Parr, BBC Music Magazine

"The Cello Sonata is particularly fine: it’s cast in a post-Vaughan Williams language and Spooner convincingly conveys its puckishness and longer-lined lyricism, and with Honeybourne brings real atmosphere to the central Andantino." Charlotte Gardner, the Strad

Ruth Gipps was a remarkably versatile musician. She was a brilliant pianist who could – and did – triumphantly tackle the hallowed summits of the Brahms Second Concerto. She also toured nationwide as a freelance orchestral player during the dark days of the Second World War, as the second oboist and cor anglais player of the City of Birmingham Orchestra (CBO). Musicians with long memories remember her with fondness and fear as a spirited and pioneering conductor who, bruised and frustrated by the musical establishment’s distrust of baton-wielding women, simply set up her own orchestras and ran them with remarkable drive and success for more than three decades. Gipps made her professional conducting debut at the Royal Festival Hall in 1957, and the London Repertoire Orchestra – later the London Chanticleer Orchestra – introduced many outstanding young soloists at the outset of their careers. Gipps’s enterprises also gave a vibrant and much-needed platform to a significant tranche of neglected orchestral music, much of it by British composers working in traditional forms whose outputs had been sidelined by promoters in a culture then favouring the more assertively avant garde.

But this extraordinarily gifted musical polymath, a woman of powerful creative imagination and intense intellectual rigour, was first and foremost a composer. As memories of Gipps (or ‘Wid’, as she always liked to be called) recede with the passing years, we are left solely with her output of some eighty works as a memorial to her daring, questing, romantic spirit. Cast in a broad range of forms and genres, these are fastidious in craftsmanship, overwhelmingly tonal, invariably lyrical and poetic, and frequently deeply affecting. ‘My music’, she wrote, to her biographer Jill Halstead, ‘is a follow-on from Vaughan Williams, Bliss and Walton – the three giants of British music since the Second World War. All were great and inspired composers.’ A vigorous exploration of Gipps’s wide-ranging output certainly offers abundant evidence of a highly individual genius whose vivid and communicative personality is unmistakeably and strongly her own. Many influences are distilled in her work, but a full- blooded originality sings throughout. This recording delves into a selection of Gipps’s chamber works, and presents her complete œuvre for solo piano, to commemorate the centenary of her birth in 2021. It features her first work – The Fairy Shoemaker – and her last, the Sonata for double bass and piano, separated by some sixty-seven years.

Joseph Spooner (cello)
David Heyes (double bass)
Duncan Honeybourne (piano)

Recorded at Holy Trinity Church, Hereford, UK, on 25 October 2020 (Cello Sonata, works for solo piano) and 28 March 2021 (Scherzo and Adagio); and at Cheap Street Church, Sherborne, Dorset, UK, on 27 July 2021 (works for double bass).
Engineered and produced by Steve Plews.
Edited and mastered by Phil Hardman.
Cover painting - abstract oil of Ruth Gipps conducting, by Steve Plews.
Prima Facie is grateful for the financial assistance provided by the RVW Trust.

Read the extensive sleeve notes to Opalescence on the Prima Facie Records blog, Recitative

Duncan Honeybourne

Duncan Honeybourne.
Duncan Honeybourne enjoys a diverse profile as a pianist and in music education. His concerto debut in 1998 at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, and the National Concert Hall, Dublin, was broadcast on radio and television, and recital debuts included London, Paris, and international festivals in Belgium and Switzerland. Duncan has toured extensively as soloist and chamber musician, broadcasting frequently for the BBC and radio networks worldwide. His many recordings reflect his interest in 20th and 21st century British piano music. He is a Tutor in Piano at the University of Southampton.

David Heyes

David Heyes
David studied double bass with Laurence Gray and Bronwen Naish and at the Royal College of Music and completed his postgraduate studies in Prague with Frantisek Posta (Principal Double Bass, Czech Philharmonic). He is in great demand and his engagements as a soloist and teacher have taken him to 12 countries over the past few years.

He works with composers throughout the world and is particularly interested to expand the double bass repertoire, by commissioning new works and by rediscovering forgotten ones; since 1990 more than 500 works have been written for him.

Joseph Spooner

Joseph Spooner
Joseph Spooner came to the cello indirectly, via a degree in Classics at Cambridge, and a doctorate in Greek papyrology at London and Florence universities. During subsequent postgraduate study at the Royal Academy of Music, he embraced traditional repertoire and developed a taste for contemporary and non-standard works. Since then, he has pursued a diverse career, principally as a soloist and chamber musician, and this work has taken him across the UK, from the Baltic to the Atlantic, and from the recording studio to concert platforms in Continental Europe, New York, Russia, Mexico and New Zealand. As a soloist, there have been performances of familiar and less familiar concertos (including Dvořák, Leighton, Korngold, Shostakovitch and Moeran); broadcasts from his recordings on BBC Radio 3 and Radio New Zealand; and recital series featuring the complete works for the cello by Bach, Beethoven, Bloch, and the Mighty Handful.