Ferguson, Gurney

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COMPOSERS: Ferguson,Gurney
WORKS: Piano Sonata in F minor; Five Bagatelles; Nine Preludes; Two Nocturnes; Four unpublished pieces
PERFORMER: Mark Bebbington (piano)
Although Ivor Gurney is best remembered for his songs and his First World War poetry, he also left a handful of piano pieces. The first half-dozen here were written in his teens, most of them in a melancholy vein reminiscent of Schumann and Grieg. And the same Romantic vein is explored, with more pianistic imagination and greater variety, in the set of nine Preludes which he wrote after the war, before the mental breakdown that silenced him for the rest of his life. The Ulsterman, Howard Ferguson, was one of the younger musicians who helped with the publication of Gurney’s music in his later years. Never a prolific composer, he wrote only two solo works for the piano, his own instrument: a substantial and powerful Sonata dating from 1938-40, and a later set of Five Bagatelles playfully developing groups of notes proposed by his fellow composer, Arnold van Wyck. Mark Bebbington plays both composers’ music with technical assurance and an appropriate flexibility. The recording is a little opaque in loud passages, but in the quieter music – most of the Gurney group, and especially the eloquent slow movement of the Ferguson Sonata – it contributes to a remarkable feeling of concentration and inwardness. Anthony Burton