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LABELS: Meridian
WORKS: Piano Quartet; Piano Sonata; Sonata for Two Pianos; String Trio
PERFORMER: Noel Skinner, David Ward (piano); Pro Arte Trio
The four pieces on this disc were commissioned by Ars Floreat, an organisation which laid down the sinister-sounding requirement that ‘all aspects of the music should make specific reference to certain texts which were provided to the composer along with the chosen instrumentation’. The texts all come from ancient Hindu scriptures, and speak of the ‘Unity of the Divine Stillness’, a state mere humans can only glimpse when they cast off the world of the senses. Those things may be desirable for mystics, but in music unity and stillness tend to add up to stupefying dullness, unless they’re charged with the ecstasy of a Messiaen or the radiance of an Arvo Pärt. David Stoll has neither of those qualities, nor any others that I can discover. The slow pieces, with their feeble alternations of simple chords, are like a limp handshake, and the fast pieces have an excruciating sprightly tweeness; they sound exactly like the background music you hear in those Agatha Christie adaptations on TV where Miss Marple speeds gamely down a country lane on her bike. Apart from exasperation, the main result of listening to this disc was puzzlement; how did it ever come into existence? Ivan Hewett