Feature Review: One Minute Wonders

Written by: Richard Whitehouse

“One Minute Wonders” is the overall title for a series of 36 pieces (each of them around 60 seconds in duration) commissioned by pianist Clive Williamson

Clive Williamson (piano)

The Warehouse, Theed Street, London

Friday 1 December 2006


“One Minute Wonders” is the overall title for a series of 36 pieces (each of them around 60 seconds in duration) commissioned by pianist Clive Williamson – initially in his capacity as Head of Performance at Surrey University. The outcome is something that approaches a conspectus for new music in the UK, and in which the considerable discipline involved has been met with varying degrees of success.

Three of the composers so commissioned have gone on to produce larger-scale works on the basis of their initial pieces. That by Kenneth Hesketh, whose forceful Epigram has expanded into the cycle Poetic Conceits, was heard at the South Bank earlier this year. Of the two heard at this Warehouse recital, Camden Reeves had followed his sensuous Praeludium with a nine-minute Ricercare Chromatica – its harmonic density and coruscating pianism recalling early music by Sorabji. A different approach from Tom Ingoldsby, whose speculative A Little Moment has translated into his Third Piano Sonata – its single movement comprising three sections that unfold a fast-slow-fast format in unpredictable and imaginative terms. At 19 minutes, this is a substantial work in its own right, and should sound even more impressive when heard as the culmination of the three sonatas that Ingoldsby has composed over the course of the last decade, and which are designed to be played as a cumulative sequence.

Williamson dispatched it with the control and spontaneity typical of his playing, and which were equally in evidence over the programme. From among the 35 other pieces, Paul Archbold’s exquisite Coronae and Anthony John’s headlong Disillusioned were among the highlights of the first half – as were Philip Grange’s intricate Prelude: In Memoriam Karlin Field and Rhian Samuel’s breezy Gaslight Square I. In the second half, Michael Finnissy’s Chopin-ish One Minute Wonder and Bryn Harrison’s pensive Flowers Fall stood out – as did Julian Anderson’s evocative Old Bells and Philip Cashian’s restive Journey After Rain. Matthew King’s ingenious Sonatas, a whistle-stop tour through the Beethoven ’32’ such as might give the “Reduced Shakespeare Company” pause for thought, saw the evening through to a lively close.

All 36 pieces are contained on a disc issued by Cadenza Music (CACD0612) – excellently performed, recorded and annotated, and recommended to prospective performers and listeners alike.

Hopefully Clive Williamson will have the opportunities to present this recital at other venues before long.

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