Piano Works, Vol. 1: Seven Preludes; The Great Seas; Five Impromptus; Plenum I; La natura dell’Acqua
Martin Jones (piano)
Resonus RES 10291 67:39 mins
A hasty look at the contents of this piano recital of pieces inspired by wind, water, thunder, light, night and the poetry of John Keats might suggest a pretty British impressionist composer from the early 20th century. Wrong. The composer is Elisabeth Lutyens, the prickly modernist, British 12-tone pioneer and Hammer horror composer who died in 1983. Announced as ‘Volume 1’, this survey of her piano music, more forgotten even than most of her neglected output, covers works from her last decade, leaving Martin Jones various intermezzos, bagatelles and other pieces to feast on at a later date.
Only the 1977 Impromptus, the most gnarled and obdurate music here, seem of purely abstract intent, and the illustrative elements elsewhere – winds growling in the piano’s lowest register, starlight approached by glittering arpeggios – generally ease digestion of typically volatile, fragmented music rarely brushing against tonality. All of Jones’s formidable skills and sympathies can’t prevent the 17-minute span of The Great Seas emerging as a formless blob, though even here there are moments of calm and delicate splendour underlining the lyrical side of Lutyens’s complex musical personality. Debussy’s distant influence hovers over the Seven Preludes of 1978, some of them bearing quotations from Keats, while La natura dell’Acqua, her last piano piece (1981), fascinatingly conjures up water from sparse thoughts pierced with silence. All in all, this is a rewarding release of utterly idiosyncratic music, eloquently played and cleanly recorded.