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Halo: music for piano – Andrew Matthews-Owen ‘steps out solo’

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Halo: music for piano
Kendall: On the Chequer’d Field Array’d; Tabakova: Modétudes; Halo; Nocturne; Phibbs: Preludes
Andrew Matthews-Owen (piano)
Nimbus NI 6354

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Pianist Andrew Matthews-Owen has long been noted as a sensitive collaborator in his more usual role as an accompanist. But he also holds dear working with composers and, for the first time on disc, he steps out solo to present music by three rightly held in high regard: Joseph Phibbs, Hannah Kendall and Dobrinka Tabakova.

The two most recent works were written for Matthews-Owen. Hottest off the press is Phibbs’s Preludes (2016); six beautifully restrained impressionist essays which comprise an affecting journey touched by personal connection: Colin Matthews is one dedicatee; the memory of Steven Stucky is another.

Kendall’s On the Chequer’d Field Array’d (2013) depicts the stages of a game of chess. Whether the ensuing battle of wits is internal or between opponents seems not to matter – but what does are the conflicts played out across the keyboard in vivid and intriguing patterns.

Modétudes (1994-99) are seven playful miniatures by Tabakova, characterising different modes. Her folk leanings delight, giving way to a passionate romanticism in Halo (1999). The title describes colours shimmering from the moon – as they do, evocatively, from the piano thanks to Matthews-Owen’s unshowy finesse.

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Steph Power