Notes and Editorial Reviews
An eclectic musical voice is given full rein in a a fine collection
Here is a welcome anthology of music by Peter Dickinson that includes five piano works, four of them played by the composer, and two quite substantial vocal works. The disc opens with the rather odd Bach in Blue (2004), a series of blue meanderings above the famous Bach prelude, and a tribute, according to the composer, to Bach and Michael and Lennox Berkeley. The rather earlier Winter Afternoons follows, a set of Emily Dickinson poems set in 1971 for the King's Singers. This is an impressive cantata, beautifully scored for the particular vocal qualities of the group and including a double bass, which both anchors the sound and complements it, as well as in some degree symbolising, as Dickinson notes, the theme of death with which the poems deal.
Of the remaining piano works on the disc, the most notable in many ways is the Sonata for Piano with Tape Playback (1987), which is, among other things, a fine essay in sonorities, particularly effective use being made of a kind of dreamlike “halo-ing” of the piano by the tape. There are also two sets of easy pieces, from 1965 and 1979, which bear witness to Dickinson's continuing inventiveness with the simplest of means.
The collection is rounded off with The Unicorns, effectively another cantata, which exists in several versions. The scoring here is for solo soprano (Elisabeth Söderström) and brass ensemble, and once again the first thing that strikes one is how effectively the composer deploys colour, in this case both vocal and instrumental. The resources of the brass ensemble seem particularly suited to Dickinson's eclectic voice. Recordings, though they come from various sources and were made at different times, are uniformly good, and performances commensurately excellent.
-- Ivan Moody, Gramophone [12/2006]