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Penelope Thwaites – Gardens, Fables, Prisons, Dreams

Benjamin Frith, Penelope Thwaites (piano); Tippett Quartet (SOMM)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Penelope Thwaites
Gardens, Fables, Prisons, Dreams – Chamber Music
Benjamin Frith, Penelope Thwaites (piano); Tippett Quartet
SOMM SOMMCD0672   65:14 mins

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Penelope Thwaites has long supported Antipodean composers, but recent projects have served as a reminder that the British-Australian pianist’s own work deserves greater attention. This compendium of chamber music follows on from her 2020 collection of choral music and songs (also on SOMM). Planted spaces are the inspiration behind the two major pieces, mirroring Delius’s In a Summer Garden, arranged by Thwaites for two pianos. Orchestral depictions of nodding blooms and fluttering butterflies are transferred to delicate upper-octave melodies and shimmering accompaniments. Here and in A Lambeth Garland – originally conceived as a song cycle for a 1986 fundraising concert at Lambeth Palace – Thwaites performs with Benjamin Frith; the duo wallows in the frothy melodies. The Selfish Giant, also reworked for the same format, is more ambitious, conveying Oscar Wilde’s titular character through rhythmic octave passages and a hymnal closing movement. The remaining short pieces cover rather disparate topics. The Tippett Quartet is quietly introspective throughout For Irina,
a piece dedicated to gulag-imprisoned Russian writer Irina Ratushinskaya; that restraint is carried over through To the Hills, an instrumental version of Thwaites’s 1964 choral setting of Psalm 121.

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Claire Jackson