COMPOSERS: Cheryl Frances-Hoad
LABELS: Champs Hill Records
ALBUM TITLE: Frances-Hoad
WORKS: Katharsis; Quark Dances; The Forgiveness Machine; Homages; A Refusal to Mourn
PERFORMER: Nicholas Daniel (oboe), David Cohen (cello), Ivana Gavric (piano), Phoenix Piano Trio; Rambert Orchestra/ Paul Hoskins
CATALOGUE NO: CHRCD 119
Over the past decade, Cheryl Frances-Hoad has emerged as one of the most engagingly inventive, independent-minded composers of the UK millennial generation. Combining far-ranging curiosity with technical rigour, her music is often inspired by extra-musical sources or – as in this third album of works from Champs Hill – the music of bygone masters.
Each piece serves as a homage to the composer/s who inspired it. From Bach to Britten via Mendelssohn, Bartók and Ravel, elements of their language suffuse genres from orchestral ballet score (Quark Dances, given a supple account by the Rambert Orchestra under Paul Hoskins), via concertos (Katharsis and A Refusal to Mourn, with excellent respective soloists, cellist David Cohen and oboist Nicholas Daniel) to solo instrumental (Homages for Piano, played with subtle virtuosity by Ivana Gavri´c). ‘Stolen Rhythm’ refers to the latter work’s Haydn-dedicated sixth movement, and evokes Frances-Hoad’s tongue-in-cheek, surprisingly tonal playfulness – complete with lopsided, archaic forms which, in Katharsis especially, suggests diverse influences of Berg and Schoenberg as well as Stravinsky, filtered through a Messiaen-enriched love of harmony.
Yet these works are no mere exercises in pastiche, but intensely personal and deeply felt. Most heart on sleeve is The Forgiveness Machine, composed in memory of the composer’s grandmother, and sensitively played by the Phoenix Piano Trio. Here and throughout Frances-Hoad displays artifice aplenty, yet more striking is her candour and refreshing lack of intellectual self-regard.