Kenneth Hesketh
Through Magic Casements
Horae (pro clara) (Breviary for Clare)
Notte Oscura
Three Japanese Miniatures
Clare Hammond (piano)

Recorded August 2015 at Cardiff University Concert Hall, Wales
CD No: BIS-2193 [SACD]
Duration: 67 minutes
Reviewed: January 2017

It’s a real pleasure to listen to Kenneth Hesketh’s piano music, played with such dedication by Clare Hammond, and superbly recorded, too. Opening with Through Magic Casements (2008), it is clear that Hesketh’s music carries a vivid narrative as well as a consummate use of the instrument in terms of colours and dynamics.

The big work here, albeit in twelve movements, is Horae (pro clara), completed in 2012 for Hammond, and with each section given alluring/intriguing Italian markings followed by in-English descriptions, such as “as fleet as the tiniest humming bird”, “like the splash and suspension of water droplets” and “impishly sardonic”. If the music, when taken as a whole, is volatile – from the greatest delicacy to volcanic outbursts, from the slowest to the fastest – and stylistically in what might be described as ‘modern’ in expression, I suggest that this cycle is no more of a challenge than may be found in Ravel’s Miroirs (or, advancing from that, Messiaen), and just as suggestive and as picturesque. I responded positively to the forty-two minutes and shall return with keen anticipation, further delights to discover. This “book of hours” flies by.

I shall also revisit with equal keenness both Notte Oscura and the Japanese Miniatures (all from 2002). The former is a transcription of an interlude from Hesketh’s Gogol-inspired opera, The Overcoat, chilly yet darkly beautiful, while the Miniatures are also a transformation of earlier, if ongoing, material, from The Record of Ancient Matters, a puppet ballet. As prescribed for the piano, ‘Temple Music’, ‘The Cradle Rocks’ and ‘Little Bumbuku’ feed the imagination and satisfy the intellect.

Kenneth Hesketh (born 1968 in Liverpool) is a composer whose music is well-worth catching – as this handsome BIS release demonstrates, and he has his perfect partner in Clare Hammond.

 

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