A Western Borderland

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Francis,Gurney and Elgar,Works by Walford Davies
LABELS: EM Records
ALBUM TITLE: A Western Borderland
WORKS: Works by Walford Davies, Francis, Gurney and Elgar
PERFORMER: Duncan Honeybourne (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: EM Records EMR CD034

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The English piano music programmed here may not shift musical history’s tectonic plates, but it still offers reasonable nourishment. Four of the five pieces receive their first recordings: the exception is Elgar’s awkward but interesting Concert Allegro, despatched by Duncan Honeybourne with a panache that can’t quite disguise the composer’s unease at writing for the piano in the first place.

Two of the rest hail from Richard Francis (b1946), the one contemporary composer in the group, all connected in some way with the English-Welsh border country. In the grandly conceived Fantasy Sonata of 1969, Liszt and John Ireland exchange a chromatic handshake. But I found most pleasure, and sharper skills, in his attractive Characteristic Pieces – morsels on the surface, though some have hidden depths.

Ivor Gurney’s Five Western Watercolours needed more colour and rather less water to linger in this listener’s memory, but it’s fun to hear from Walford Davies in his student days, flamboyantly building up his 1890 Theme and Variations from a docile, hymn-like melody. Honeybourne treats his enterprising repertoire with respect and affection.

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Geoff Brown