Pasture and Storm: New Music for Left Hand Piano and Ensembles
Nicholas McCarthy, Sophia Benton, Tomáš Klement (piano); Stephanie Gilbert (flute), Roger Huckle (violin), Peyee Chen (soprano); Bristol Ensemble/John Pickard
Prima Facie PFCD193 78:28 mins
When Nicholas McCarthy, who was born without a right arm, he became the first left-handed pianist to graduate from the Royal College of Music in 2012, his achievement made headlines. But left-hand repertoire has long been a form in its own right, thanks to a path trodden by Liszt pupil Géza Zichy, who lost his right arm in an accident, and Paul Wittgenstein, who lost his during the First World War and commissioned music by Ravel, Britten and others. Sadie Harrison’s new five-movement The Book of Storm and Mistsfor left hand mixes pastoral melodies with Spanish-inspired pasodoble. McCarthy dances across the keyboard, then finds stillness in the dusky Aubade.
Harrison’s I kiss the earth is a dramatic song cycle of Afghan poems, with similar themes explored in The Nightingales of Afghanistan; both significant additions to the relatively uncharted territory of chamber music for left-handed pianists. The Bristol Ensemble brings a Middle Eastern flavour; Stephanie Gilbert provides superb flute solos. Work Songs of the Land – scored for two left-handed pianists at one piano – is performed by McCarthy and Sophia Benton, a pupil of Harrison’s who suffers from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome in her right hand and provided the initial inspiration for this album.