JOHN MCLEOD (b.1934): Piano Sonatas Nos. 1 - 5, Fantasy on Themes from Britten’s Opera “Gloriana”, 4 Impromptus, Hebridean Dances for Piano Four Hands, 12 Preludes, 3 Protest Pieces, 3 Interludes from “Another Time, Anther Place”, Haflidi’s Pictures.
Catalogue Number: 01U049
Reference: msv 77207
Description: For a composer who is not himself a pianist, McLeod has produced a sizeable body of consistently fine piano music, evenly divided between characterful miniatures and tough, tautly organised larger forms. While McLeod is not the exuberant pianistic innovator that his compatriot Ronald Stevenson was (but then again, who is?), there is a distinct feeling of kinship in their approach to tonal harmony and their departures from it and the constantly felt background of Scottish idioms, ornament and melodic contour. It is no wonder that the redoubtable Mr McLachlan has become a champion of both composers. The "craggy, northern quality" and penchant for quotation and reference that we noted in the superb orchestral disc from July (07U057) are also evident in the piano works. Three of the sonatas are in a single span, with clearly demarcated sections; the First is the most evidently modelled after the Liszt both in overall structure and the gesture and structural function of the inner sections. McLeod's tonal harmony is more modern, and has a tendency toward greater astringency in subsequent sonatas, but all are powerful works of the utmost cogency and drama. This is also true of the Preludes, which also constitute a substantially proportioned work in twelve characterful pieces that follow an unusual key scheme which finally provides a tone-row for the subject of the last. Haflidi Hallgrimsson's surreal and enigmatic little sketches are celebrated in sometimes humorous musical epigrams (quoting Strauss, Mussorgsky et al. as appropriate) and pithy doggerel verse introductions written and spoken by McLeod. Another Time ... Is a short suite extracted from film music, highlighting the composer's melodic gift and evocative sense of (Scots) atmosphere, as do the Hebridean Dances; the Protest Pieces (about environmental and animal cruelty concerns) are harder-hitting, in the manner of the sonatas. Pianophiles with a taste for modern originality firmly based in tradition will find this valuable set essential listening. 2 CDs. Mid-price. Murray McLachlan (piano), Rose McLachlan (Hebridean Dances).