Thursday 6 July 2017

Simon Vincent's Stations of the Cross

Simon Vincent - Stations of the Cross
Simon Vincent Stations of the Cross; Simon Vincent; Vision of Sound
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jul 3 2017
Star rating: 4.0

Quietly intense series of short solo piano pieces inspired by William Fairbank's Forest Stations

Simon Vincent's 2016 piece Stations of the Cross consists of 17 short movements for solo piano, here played by the composer on his own Vision of Sound label. Stations of the Cross is prefixed by an earlier work dating from 2013, Meditations on Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. Vincent is a composer of acoustic and electronic music, and was nominated for the 2014 Paul Hamlyn Award for Artists.

Stations of the Cross was inspired by William Fairbank's installation in Lincoln Cathedral, Forest Stations, a series of wooden sculptures. Fairbank says on his website that 'their naming refers to the sculptor’s love of timber and his concerns for the preservation of forests and trees throughout the world. The sculptures tell the story of the traditional account of Jesus Christ’s death, depicting each stage, or station, along the road to the place of crucifixion. The images are formed within the natural and carved shapes and colours of different timbers.'

Station X: We strip him of his clothes from William Fairbank's Forest Stations
Station X: We strip him of his clothes from
William Fairbank's Forest Stations
Vincent's piece was also galvanised by a short visit to Jerusalem in 2015, and the work takes the form of fifteen stations each named for one of Fairbank's stations, with an opening 'First Offering: Opening' and a final 'Second Offering: Conclusion'. Vincent premiered the work in Lincoln Cathedral on 18 April 2017, the start of a series of recitals in cathedrals and churches in the UK.

Vincent's music is spare and minimal yet without any references to Minimalism. He uses long sustained chords intended as moments for reflection and prayer. The music is austere with widely spaced chords with a striking use of dissonance and differences in register. Vincent's performance does make a strikingly intense impression, with the moments of stasis and silence taking real importance.

The music is thoughtful, with the chromatics of the harmonies making a striking impression. There isn't a sense of harmonic progression, instead the placement of notes and chords as objects to be contemplated and thought about.

Rather remarkably the work was not recorded in the UK, but in Bayreuth at Steingraeber & Sohne.
Simon Vincent - Stations of the Cross
Simon Vincent (piano)
Recorded 7-10 October 2016, Steingraeber, Bayreuth
Available from Amazon.

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