Foulds: Essays in the Modes; Music-Pictures Groups VI & VII

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WORKS: Essays in the Modes; Music-Pictures Groups VI & VII
PERFORMER: Kathryn Stott (piano)
Now that cross-cultural fertilisation is so much on the agenda, it may be time for the works of John Foulds finally to emerge from the shadows. Born in Manchester in 1880, he ended up in Calcutta, where he died of cholera in 1939. As his interest in non-European music increased, you can hear him moving away from the late-Romantic world of Brahms and Schumann, so evident in the Variations of 1900, to the use of Indian modes in the Essays of the late Twenties. Not that this music sounds at all Indian: the modality sometimes recalls Bartók’s Mikrokosmos, or the folk-inflected style of Vaughan Williams. In between there’s the Celtic fringe, together with a taste of Foulds’s expertise in the field of light music, in the sixth group of Music-Pictures, and the scent of impressionism in the seventh. But, despite Kathryn Stott’s eloquent and involved playing, I don’t take away any impression of Foulds as a composer with an individual voice, until the central section of April – England, where, over a slow repeated bass, the right hand performs ever more elaborate roulades, at last creating real musical tension. It’s a long time to wait until track 15, though. Martin Cotton