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John Pickard: Chamber Music

Pickard / Marshall-luck / Harris / Mitchell
Release Date: 10/30/2012 
Label:  Toccata Classics   Catalog #: 150   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  John Pickard
Performer:  Matthew RickardRupert Marshall-LuckSophie HarrisIan Mitchell
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 18 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

PICKARD Piano Trio 1. Insomnia 2. Chaconne. 3 Valedictions 4. Violin Sonata 2. Snowbound 5 Rupert Marshall-Luck ( 1,2 vn, 3 va); Read more class="SUPER12">1,4,5 Sophie Harris (vc); 5 Ian Mitchell (b cl); Matthew Rickard (pn) TOCCATA 150 (2 CDs: 100:11)

The young composer (b. 1963) John Pickard has been gathering some excellent reviews, including from this journal (Athene-Minerva’s recording of Pickard’s Piano Sonata was on Stephen Ellis’s Want List in 1999 while Lynn René Bayley was impressed by an orchestral disc on BIS in Fanfare 31:6). On the evidence of the present disc, it is difficult to argue. Pickard’s music is fairly easy on the ear. He was taught by William Mathias and Louis Andriessen, attaining his doctorate from Bangor University in 1989 before heading south to the faculty of music at the University of Bristol in 1993. The Piano Trio of 1990 is dedicated to Martin Anderson (founder of Toccata Classics and, with his critic’s hat on, a prolific contributor to Fanfare ). It is a remarkable piece that particularly spotlights the cello (the lead being Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, apparently). Sophie Harris is the intrepid cellist whose expressive lines and warm tone inform the entire reading. The piece features some remarkable writing, not least the sparse Sibelian textures of the central section. The finale is quite harsh, even motoric.

The work for violin and piano of 1997, Insomnia , is described by the composer as “more fantastical and overtly virtuosic than the Trio.” The violin is certainly closely miked (it comes as a bit of a shock on a straight play through of the disc), as if to highlight the restless, shifting quality of the writing. The phantasmagoric aspect is visceral. Pickard’s imagination, plus his formal control, ensures that the piece does not outstay its 13-minute duration. A 10-minute Chaconne for solo viola might, titularly speaking, be construed as troublesome, but Pickard again confounds expectations in his 1998 piece. The baroque-inspired work (Bach has to figure, really) works its way slowly but resolutely to climax. Marshall-Luck plays with intense concentration. The result is magical. The cello and piano Valedictions (1999/2000) finds its inspirations in the valedictory poems of the great John Donne, “A Valediction of Weeping” and “A Valediction of Mourning.” The enormity of the first poem’s grief is palpably rendered in music. The intimacy of the second poem (encapsulated perhaps by the lines, “So let us melt, and make no noise, No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move; ‘Twere profanation of our joy. To tell the laity our love”) is similarly expertly reflected.

The Violin Sonata (2004), harmonically, pits two scales, one alternating tones and semitones, one an interlocking cycle of fifths (as the composer himself points out, reference to the Berg Violin Concerto is inevitable). Marshall-Luck and Rickard give an impassioned account. The virtuosic central Presto possibile is a remarkable ride, contrasting in the strongest possible way with the lonely soliloquy of the opening of the finale (a profound eight-minute Adagio ). Finally, the 2010 piece Snowbound for bass clarinet, cello, and piano. Pickard had recently been exploring his predilection for the darker orchestral sonorities in a piece called Tenebrae . The musical materials from that piece are revisited here, in evocation of a particularly snowy winter in Britain. The explosive beginning is surprisingly violent and speaks of a darkness that seems to refer to the opening of Mahler’s final part of Das Lied von der Erde . Although not all is bleak; the music later sparkles. Pickard’s sense of sonority enchants the ear, while one remains aware that one is in the hands of a master craftsman. The performance is very alert from all parties. The stasis of the work’s final pages results in a haunting close to this remarkable disc. How good it is to know there is some real talent around.

FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

Piano Trio by John Pickard
Performer:  Matthew Rickard (Piano), Rupert Marshall-Luck (Violin), Sophie Harris (Cello)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1990 
Date of Recording: 01/10/2012 
Venue:  St George's, Bristol, England 
Length: 4 Minutes 44 Secs. 
Insomnia, for violin & piano by John Pickard
Performer:  Rupert Marshall-Luck (Violin), Matthew Rickard (Piano)
Written: 1997 
Date of Recording: 01/09/2012 
Venue:  St George's, Bristol, England 
Length: 12 Minutes 39 Secs. 
Chaconne for viola by John Pickard
Performer:  Rupert Marshall-Luck (Viola)
Written: 1998 
Date of Recording: 01/09/2012 
Venue:  St George's, Bristol, England 
Length: 10 Minutes 6 Secs. 
Valedictions, for cello & piano by John Pickard
Performer:  Sophie Harris (Cello), Matthew Rickard (Piano)
Written: 1999-2000 
Date of Recording: 01/10/2012 
Venue:  St George's, Bristol, England 
Length: 9 Minutes 30 Secs. 
Violin Sonata by John Pickard
Performer:  Rupert Marshall-Luck (Violin), Matthew Rickard (Piano)
Written: 2004 
Date of Recording: 01/09/2012 
Venue:  St George's, Bristol, England 
Length: 18 Minutes 26 Secs. 
Snowbound, for bass clarinet, cello & piano by John Pickard
Performer:  Matthew Rickard (Piano), Sophie Harris (Cello), Ian Mitchell ()
Written: 2010 
Date of Recording: 01/10/2012 
Venue:  St George's, Bristol, England 
Length: 9 Minutes 19 Secs. 

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