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Haflidi's Pictures / Mark Tanner


Release Date: 09/08/2009 
Label:  Priory Records   Catalog #: 1018   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Mervyn BurtchColin DecioGraham FirkinPhilip Martin,   ... 
Performer:  Mark Tanner
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



HAFLIDI’S PICTURES & Mark Tanner (pn); John McLeod (nar) 1 PRIORY 1018 (78:15)


BURTCH Five Aphorisms. DECIO The Music Box Suite. FITKIN Furniture. P. MARTIN Prism. Dunes: Hills of Wind-Blown Sand. Read more STOCKEN Bagatelle. McLEOD Haflidi’s Pictures 1


& Conversation between John McLeod and Mark Tanner


A couple of years ago ( Fanfare 31:1) I welcomed Mark Tanner’s disc of Wishart and Lambert, describing the pianist as “hugely talented” and deserving “more recognition than he currently enjoys.” Most of the works here are newly commissioned, and all are recorded here for the first time. All were played at Wigmore Hall in July 2008 (a concert that included a piece by Graham Lynch that will be included in a future release devoted exclusively to Lynch’s music).


The Welsh composer Mervyn Burtch, composer of no less than nine operas, contributes the Five Aphorisms of 1989. Tanner identifies (rightly) the influences of Prokofiev and Britten in the pithy writing. The performance is tight and to the point, just as this music deserves. The humor of Prokofiev is particularly to the fore. Tanner taught the composer Colin Decio at Birmingham Conservatoire in the late 1980s. Decio has links to the great John Ogdon, who performed the composer’s First Piano Sonata in Birmingham. His The Music Box Suite is characterized by economy of gesture and simplicity, and is charmingly delivered by Tanner. There are darker shadows present here, as in the third movement (“The Singing Wood”). Tanner understates them and by doing so makes them all the more effective.


Graham Fitkin’s music has proved remarkably popular in the U.K. Furniture (1989) is tremendously and infectiously energetic. Jazzy rhythms, irregular groupings, and Tanner’s tremendous way with syncopation ensure this is a most enjoyable ride. The name of Philip Martin will undoubtedly be familiar to readers of this magazine due to his activities as pianist. He is a known composer too (there is a marco polo recording of his Second Piano Concerto and Harp Concerto). This is actually my first exposure to Martin’s music, and it strikes me as fascinating, fully deserving of repeated listening. The harmonies he uses are simple but poignant. This is music of the utmost beauty (the Aria movement is almost unbearably moving) and charm. I for one would like to hear more music by this talented pianist/composer. The second piece by Martin here is the shorter set of three movements, Dunes (commissioned in 2007). The first movement, “Hush,” is magnificent in its portrayal of suspended time and contrasts splendidly with the spicy harmonic language of “Wilds.” Finally, “Suspension” returns to the quietude of the first movement, although with a less ethereal feel. There is a chorale-like central section that pays delicious homage to Messiaen.


The brief Bagatelle (2008) by Frederick Stocken (born 1967) is a bittersweet treat, fully expressed in tonal terms. One can almost taste Tanner’s enjoyment. In massive contrast in durational terms comes John McLeod’s Haflidi’s Pictures: Twelve Aphorisms for Piano , which comes in at just shy of half an hour. The composer himself acts as narrator here. McLeod studied composition with Sir Lennox Berkeley and conducting with Sir Adrian Boult. The pictures that inspired McLeod (by the artist/musician Haflidi Hallgrimsson) are reproduced in the booklet, and it is good to hold the image while one listens. There is depth aplenty here, plus some playfulness (including an invocation of the famous Nokia ringtone in movement 6). Humor plays its part, too: No. 4, “A Devil in a Cupboard,” unsurprisingly includes the Dies irae ; and No. 10, “A Witch on a Pedestal,” quotes Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique as well as Mussorgsky’s Pictures . The work coheres well, and there is plenty to enjoy.


The conversation between pianist and composer adds some further background. McLeod talks on his penchant for inspiration through art. Tanner refers to the “A Witch on a Pedestal” movement as his favorite, and it is indeed easy to hear why. The standard of recording is fabulous, so all credit to Neil Collier, who acts as both producer and engineer. The layout of the booklet is intriguing, in that after a short introduction to each composer and his work, Tanner appends a short “personal note,” each of which adds to the sense of link between composers and pianist as well as giving extra information. I should point out that my review of the Wishart and Lambert disc referred to above is quoted on the inside back cover of the booklet, but the layout of the page implies the quote refers to Tanner’s York Bowen recording on Priory 887.


FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

1.
Five Aphorisms by Mervyn Burtch
Performer:  Mark Tanner (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1989 
2.
Musical Box Suite by Colin Decio
Performer:  Mark Tanner (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2007 
3.
Furniture by Graham Firkin
Performer:  Mark Tanner (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1989 
4.
Prism by Philip Martin
Performer:  Mark Tanner (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2008 
5.
Dunes by Philip Martin
Performer:  Mark Tanner (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2007 
6.
Bagatelle by Frederick Stockton
Performer:  Mark Tanner (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2008 
7.
Haflidi's Picures by John McLeod
Performer:  Mark Tanner (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 

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