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Bingham: Piano Music / David Jones

Bingham / Jones,David
Release Date: 05/28/2013 
Label:  Toccata Classics   Catalog #: 181   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Judith Bingham
Performer:  David Jones
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BINGHAM The Moon over Westminster Cathedral. Limehouse Nocturne. Byron, Violent Progress. Christmas Past, Christmas Present. Chopin. Annunciation II. Pictured Within David Jones (pn) TOCCATA 0181 (72: 58)

No fewer than five first recordings feature in this very special disc. Judith Bingham is a highly imaginative composer who, on the evidence of the booklet notes of the current release, writes eloquently on her own music. The recording (made at The Venue, Leeds, October 2009) is wonderfully present. Read more

A transcription of the choral The Waning Moon (1997), The Moon over Westminster Cathedral is marked “Lisztian,” and indeed there are gestures (around 2:20 for example) that invoke that composer’s darker keyboard utterances. The work’s first half concentrates on minor chords; the second moves on to major. It is a touchingly atmospheric piece, almost but not quite Impressionist. David Jones’s playing here is marvelously sensitive, as it is throughout the recital. Limehouse Nocturne (2004) is inspired by St Anne’s, Limehouse (London) and by Whistler’s Thames paintings. It seems to traverse a lot of ground over its six-minute span; the granitic, complex chords are particularly impressive.

Byron, Violent Progress (2008) is a set of 13 variations on the song She Walks in Beauty in the Night by Bingham herself. The two-minute theme is rather dark and brims with promise for variation. Jones gives it out with a sort of restrained care, as if handling a precious object. Each variation is given a separate track. Bingham segments the score so that it is in three movements (theme and variations 1–4; variations 5–8; variations 9–13). The ruminative first variation sets out the sense of space evoked here. There is, simply, no rush involved, a sense immediately contradicted by the harsh chords of the second variation. Bingham refers to the opening of the second movement (variation 5) as a “bright Alpine landscape” and, with its upwardly-bound phrases and glinting, glacial gestures, it is easy to hear why. A change of texture to a skeletal counterpoint marks the onset of the third movement.

Jones plays with the perfect amount of concentration for Christmas Past, Christmas Present (1989), intended as adult reminiscences of Christmases past, delicate nostalgia weighs heavily here, while Chopin (1979) is an evocation of the spirit of that composer as opposed to any sort of pastiche. The work’s tripartite structure seems to zoom in on different aspects of Chopin, firstly Nocturne (although the very opening seems to refer to the G-Minor Ballade), then Scherzo before a coda. Annunication II (2009), part of a sequence of works for various instruments that address a different aspect of the annunciation, is distinctly Lisztian in its holy aura as well as its use of tremolo. Jones gives a masterly account. The end hangs beautifully in the air.

Finally, Pictured Within (1981) a portrait of six people (one of whom is fictional) within four movements. It is a walk on the dark side of Bingham’s psyche (her booklet notes are quite open about the time of the work’s composition being a difficult one for her). One can hear the concentration of language throughout.

To top up your Bingham fix, a Naxos disc of choral works is just the ticket (8.570346), as is the Signum disc entitled Remoter Worlds (reviewed Fanfare 33:1 and one of Alan Swanson’s choices for his 2009 Want List).

FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

The Moon over Westminster Cathedral by Judith Bingham
Performer:  David Jones (Piano)
Limehouse Nocturne by Judith Bingham
Performer:  David Jones (Piano)
Byron, Violent Progress by Judith Bingham
Performer:  David Jones (Piano)
Christmas Past, Christmas Present by Judith Bingham
Performer:  David Jones (Piano)
Chopin by Judith Bingham
Performer:  David Jones (Piano)
Annunciation II by Judith Bingham
Performer:  David Jones (Piano)
Pictured Within by Judith Bingham
Performer:  David Jones (Piano)

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