Tuesday 5 December 2017

Stolen Rhythm: instrumental & orchestral music by Cheryl Frances Hoad

Stolen Rhythm - Cheryl Frances Hoad; David Cohen, Ivana Gavric, Nicholas Daniel, Rambert Orchestra, Paul Hoskins; Champs Hill Records
Cheryl Frances Hoad; David Cohen, Ivana Gavric, Nicholas Daniel, Rambert Orchestra, Paul Hoskins; Champs Hill Records
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Nov 24 2017 Star rating: 4.5
Inspired by music of the past, this selection of Cheryl Frances-Hoad's music is full of good things

Stolen Rhythm is a new disc of Cheryl Frances-Hoad's music on the Champs Hill Records label, in which each piece is some sort of homage to the music of the past. The works on the disc include Katharsis for solo cello and ensemble from David Cohen (cello), Rambert Orchestra, Paul Hoskins (conductor, music director of Rambert), The Forgiveness Machine from the Phoenix Piano Trio, Quark Dances from Rambert Orchestra and Paul Hoskins, Homages from pianist Ivana Gavric and A refusal to mourn from Nicholas Daniel (oboe), Rambert Orchestra and Paul Hoskins.

Katharsis was written in 2013 to a commission from cellist David Cohen and the work was premiered that year by the performers on this disc. The work's inspirations include the cello suites of Bach and Britten, so that we have movements entitled 'Prelude', 'Moto perpetuo', 'Minuet & trio', 'Sarabande', 'Gavotte' and 'Canto' but the language is very much Frances-Hoad's own albeit with the past filtering through. The music dives straight in with lyrically impassioned music and there is a sense of the cello soloist at the centre of an ensemble rather than spotlit.
'Moto perpetuo' has the soloist singing over fast and vivid instrumental accompaniment. I have to confess that when I first heard the first movement, I marked it down as a waltz rather than a minuet! It features spare harmonies and cello harmonics and develops into something endearingly tuneful. 'Sarabande' is lyrically intense and felt like a recapitulation over material we have already heard, whilst 'Gavotte' is full of perky rhythms and Stravinskian hints. The final 'Canto' is more of a rhapsodic prelude and ends with the soloist almost alone, quiet and contemplative.

The Forgiveness Machine was commissioned in 2011 by the Phoenix Piano Trio for a project building on the Beethoven piano trios, and Frances-Hoad's piece is modelled on the 'Andante cantabile' from Beethoven's Archduke Trio, Op. 97. It opens with quietly jazzy chords in the piano overwhich Frances-Hoad places intersecting, intertwining string lines. The work has a melancholy quality and, despite the Beethovenian inspiration there, is a Messiaen-ish tinge to the harmonies. It is a fabulous work, quietly intense and full of rich textures.

Quark Dances from 2014 were originally written for a Mark Baldwin ballet about the origins of the cosmos (Frances-Hoad was a composer in residence with Rambert Dance Company). Inspiration here is Bach and Stravinsky in Dumbarton Oaks mode. There are five short-ish movements, the opening uses a big modal unison which develops via some lovely orchestration and fascinating sounds (a harpschord features in the ensemble). A perky second movement leads to a sustained and intense third with horns to the fore. The fourth movement is a lyrical andante, again with hints of Messiaen about its melodic structure, and we finish with a rather Stravinskian dance that seems to be trying to be a waltz.

Homages is a suite of seven movements for piano, each one trying on an hommage to a different composer. So we have memories of Grieg's Lyric Pieces, Janacek's In the mists, a Schubert piano sonata, Ravel's piano music, Mendelssohn's songs without words, Haydn piano sonatas,and Bartokian rhythms. The pieces were written over a period of time, and premiered for different pianists. In each the original composer's signature can be detected, but Cheryl Frances-Hoad's personality is to the fore too, creating a sequence of delightful character pieces which can be enjoyed without worrying who was inspired by what.

A Refusal to Mourn was originally written in 2000 for the Cambridge University Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Nicolas Daniel wiith Emma Fielding as the oboe soloist. On this recording, the soloist is now Daniel, with Paul Hoskins conducting the Rambert Orchestra. The work was Frances-Hoad's first professional commission, and for this recording she lightly revised the piece. Each of the three movements is based on a Bach chorale (it was written for the 250th anniversary of the composer's death). The first movement is lyrically intense opening with the solo oboe and developing into something rather powerful. The second movement is a perky fugato, which has an impressive feeling of onward momentum and spiky melodic outlines. This melts into a lovely chorale which has distinctly romantic outlines.

Performances are uniformly excellent, and this lovely disc introduces to a wide range of Cheryl Frances-Hoads well constructive and imaginative music.

Cheryl Frances-Hoad - Katharsis (2013)
Cheryl Frances-Hoad - The Forgiveness Machine  (2011)
Cheryl Frances-Hoad - Quark Dances (2014)
Cheryl Frances-Hoad - Homages (2009-2015)
Cheryl Frances-Hoad - A Refusal to Mourn (2000-2015)
David Cohen (cello)
Phoenix Piano Trio (Jonathan Stone, Christian Elliott, Sholto Kynoch)
Ivana Gavric (piano)
Nicholas Daniel 
Rambert Orchestra
Paul Hoskins (conductor)
Recorded 19 & 24 April, 1 May & 13 September 2015 in the Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex
CHRCD119 1CD [79.16]
Available from Amazon.

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