Plenty of variety across seventy-five minutes of intriguing piano music by the prolific Robert Matthew-Walker, beginning with the haunting ‘Reflection at Midnight’ (embracing ‘Tempest’ Sonata-like arpeggios) from the (left-hand) Nocturne and Aubade. The composer may have been born in 1939 but he knows all about ‘Break Dancing at Washington Square’, from Three American Pictures, also from which the album’s LA title, “a piece of disco dance music for piano – transferred to the recital room” (RM-W) and including a potential pop-tune hit, boogied infectiously by Mark Bebbington, and movingly countered by The Evening of Memory (as for Mozart an ‘Adagio in B minor’), and WAM himself makes an appearance for Divertimento on a Theme of Mozart (F-major Piano Sonata, K533) for which Bebbington is joined, four-hands, by Rebeca Omordia, an amusing confection that includes ‘feast of Stephen’ and nursery-rhyme fare, with children also not overlooked in the picturesque collection that is Battledore, each miniature lasting less than a minute, while another composer sourced with admiration is Malcolm Arnold, in Matthew-Walker’s Fantasy, his Opus 208, which needs a few listens to unravel.
Most of the pieces here receive their first recordings – and they could not be in better hands (pun intended) than those of the devoted, insightful and virtuosic Bebbington, very well recorded at Menuhin Hall (December 2021), with an illuminating booklet note courtesy of the composer. Fantasy-Sonata: Hamlet is already known to collectors (on Naxos, also Bebbington), Matthew-Walker’s Piano Sonata No.3, a superb single-movement score, musically challenging (perhaps), heroic Liszt meets the Ravel of Gaspard, gripping in its drama, direction, growth and grand gestures, music that continues to give. Finally on Somm’s release, The Fields are White Already – “a contemplation for solo piano in memoriam John McCabe” – a wonderfully moving tribute to a much-missed composer and concert-pianist. This eclectic collection is enthusiastically recommended on SOMMCD 0662.
Bob Matthew-Walker continues his golden composing career….. And thank you Bob for your moving tribute to John, which I heard live at its premiere. I look forward very much to hearing it again, and the whole record. I remember John praising your Fantasy-Sonata: Hamlet.
Excellent. Bob Walker has spent his life promoting the music of others, first while he worked at RCA, and since then on magazines and every medium available to him, and never once mentioning his own output as composer. This new release is thus a revelation, one that has
been long overdue, The music represents an original mind, and superb construction.
My review will appear in Musical Opinion.
A super CD full of life and special insights into humanity.