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Sixteen Contemporary Love Songs: 
Works by Frances-Hoad, Zev Gordon, Hellawell et al

William Howard (Orchid Classics)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Sixteen Contemporary Love Songs
Works by Frances-Hoad, Zev Gordon, Hellawell, B Hughes, Kats-Chernin, Knotts, Muhly, Skempton, Talbot, et al
William Howard (piano)
Orchid Classics ORC 100083 63:00 mins

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William Howard has been thinking a lot about love. Back in 2016, the British pianist released an album exploring the rich seam of late-Romantic era songs without words. Now, he’s given us the modern-day response. Sixteen Contemporary Love Songs is a gorgeous collection, and it’s beautifully played here. Fourteen brief new pieces, none longer than six minutes, are the result of Howard’s thoughtful commissioning project, while two came from a competition that attracted 526 entrants. Taiwanese Chia-Ying Lin’s glinting Chanson Perpétuelle won the over-25 category, while Frederick Viner’s love duet Herz an Herz took the honours in the under-25s.

There’s something for all tastes, from Howard Skempton’s spare Solitary Highland Song to the expansive gestures of Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s Love Song for Dusty (Springfield). David Matthews’s A Love Song basks in a post-Romantic glow, while Nico Muhly toys with neighbouring notes in Falling Pairs. Inspirations range from Elena Kats-Chernin’s roses in a box – the flowers, I assume, not the chocolates – to Joby Talbot’s baby daughter in the sparkling Camille. Last year I heard Howard play ten of these pieces, equally sensitively, interspersed with pieces from the original album. They work as well in concert as on disc.

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Rebecca Franks