Thursday, December 23, 2010
A Christmas delight that avoids the high Cs
Howard Skempton's music has developed without regard for contemporary fashionable 'isms'. He studied composition with Cornelius Cardew and was a founder member Cardew's Scratch Orchestra in 1969. Skempton's music is characterised by its extreme economy and he has writen a large number of pieces for solo piano or accordion.
Bolt from the Blue is a new CD from the New York based Mode label which was Alex Ross' 2009 label of the year. It brings together Howard Skempton's piano miniatures and music for voices in an intelligently planned and beautifully executed programme. The pianist is contemporary music specialist Daniel Becker whose contribution, which includes the title track, is captured in the piano-friendly acoustic of Potton Hall here in East Anglia. Exaudi directed by James Weeks provide the choral contribution which was recorded in St Silas, Chalk Farm.
This is an outstanding disc of genuinely original and beautiful music. It comes from an important composer who remains outside contemporary music's fashionable inner circle and it would be very surprising if many (any?) of the works on it are already in reader's CD collections. It is also a true Christmas delight that avoids the two high Cs of Cowell (Simon not Henry) and Cage (John not Chris Palko). Need I say more?
* A podcast interview with James Weeks in which I discuss with him Exaudi's recording of Elisabeth Lutyen's vocal music can be heard here.
Also on Facebook and Twitter. Bolt from the Blue was provided as a requested review sample. Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk