WORKS: Sonata, Op. 64; Preludes; Winter Scenes; Sonata No. 3, Op. 27
PERFORMER: Margaret Fingerhut (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10601
Kenneth Leighton was far from an obsessive promoter of his own music – as I remember from my student days at Edinburgh University where he was professor. So I’ve found this recording informative as well as impressive.
The earliest music here is the previously unperformed Winter Scenes, dating from 1953 and very much of their English time, as their titles indicate (‘Woodsprites’, ‘By the Fireside’, ‘Snowflakes’). Although the genre is ultra-conventional, there isn’t a wasted note; and the best pieces, such as ‘Mist’, reveal much imagination.
Within a year Leighton was in Italy, studying with Petrassi and composing the best music on this disc: Sonata No. 3’s four terse movements press forward into new, incisively chromatic territory, more post-Dallapiccola than post-Schoenberg.
The three-movement Sonata of 1972 is a more expansive statement, strongly sustained, but perhaps less individual. And if the five Preludes of 1988 are a partial throwback to Leighton’s earlier manner, their creation by the terminally ill composer was a feat of humbling courage.
Margaret Fingerhut’s strong and immaculate performances recall Leighton’s own powerful style as a pianist almost exactly, and the recordings reveal his fine ear for keyboard resonance. Malcolm Hayes