Leighton: Sonatina No. 2; Five Studies, Op. 22; Fantasia contrappuntistica; Pieces for Angela; Four Romantic Pieces, Op. 95

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Leighton
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Sonatina No. 2; Five Studies, Op. 22; Fantasia contrappuntistica; Pieces for Angela; Four Romantic Pieces, Op. 95
PERFORMER: Margaret Fingerhut (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9818
The booklet note to this CD says ‘If any composer deserves recognition it is Kenneth Leighton’. It’s a large claim, which the CD hardly bears out. Leighton was born in 1929 and died in 1988, but the tremendous upheavals in postwar music seem to have passed him by. His style combines the salon sentimentality of Debussy’s very early piano pieces with a kind of Home Service gentility, resulting in a milk-and-water charm which, to my ears at least, very quickly becomes tiresome. The music is at its strongest when it stays strictly within its limits, as in the early Sonatina, which at least has a certain energy. But the later pieces lack even that. When Leighton tries to strike a deeper note, as in the Adagio molto from the Four Romantic Pieces, the thinness of the idiom becomes all too painfully apparent. Margaret Fingerhut gives the music precisely the performance it deserves; that’s to say, it’s antiseptically precise and fleet-fingered, and stays strictly within the music’s emotional compass, which never ventures beyond the winsomely frolicsome and sweetly charming. The sound, too, is exactly right – clear and pleasantly warm, yet somehow bodiless. Ivan Hewett

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