CD label featuring world premières by British composers.
Prima Facie is the meeting of two minds - Giles Easterbrook and Stephen Plews - both known in the music industry as champions of new music. They have produced or promoted hundreds of projects, many of which have won awards or been recognised as outstanding contributions to the arts.
Kenneth Hamilton plays Ronald Stevenson Vol 2 (PFCD107) £12.50
Kenneth Hamilton: piano
Following the outstanding acclaim offered to the first CD of this series, Prima Facie is proud to present Volume 2 of 'Kenneth Hamilton plays Ronald Stevenson'. Hamilton, a former student, friend and colleague of the composer, performs Stevenson’s music with “understanding and brilliance” (Andrew McGregor, BBC Radio 3 Record Review). Volume 2 features a riveting collection of Celtic pieces, including the coruscating 'Keening Sang for a Makar', Stevenson’s complete Purcell transcriptions, and the first recording of the wonderfully witty 'Threepenny Sonatina', based on themes from Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera.
Ronald Stevenson (1928 - 2015) was Scotland’s Franz Liszt - a fascinatingly fertile and highly contentious figure in the world of contemporary music - virtuoso composer-pianist, passionate polemicist and cultural crusader. Stevenson’s multifarious musical interests, left wing political leanings and enlightened Scottish nationalism led him to be labelled as a neo-Romantic reactionary, or even as a socialist-realist. But in the wake of his recent death, we can see him more clearly as a post-modernist born before his time, penning works of emotional intensity, imagination and vigour in a defiantly distinctive voice - producing some of the most thought-provoking piano music of the 20th century.
Described after a concerto performance as "an outstanding virtuoso - one of the finest players of his generation" (Moscow Kommersant), by the New York Times as a performer "of energy and wit", and by Tom Service in The Guardian as "an all-round virtuoso“, Kenneth Hamilton performs worldwide as a recitalist, and broadcasts regularly on the BBC. The originality of his last CD, the best-selling Preludes to Chopin (Prima Facie), generated international impact and lively critical debate. James Manheim wrote: “The commercial success of this release shows how strongly audiences hunger for fresh interpretations of mainstream repertory, and a fresh interpretation is exactly what you get“ (AllMusic). While Stefan Pieper commented: “Hamilton’s approach to Chopin ignores the pianistic fashions of today’s music-market, challenges the dogmas of historical performance-practice, and offers a complete palette of new and intriguing experiences” (Klassik Heute). Kenneth Hamilton is also well known as a writer on music. His award-winning After the Golden Age: Romantic Pianism and Modern Performance (Oxford University Press) was welcomed as "full of wit and interest, and written with passion" by Charles Rosen in The Times Literary Supplement, and as "a wonderful book" by James Fenton in The Guardian. Hamilton is Head of Cardiff University School of Music in Wales, UK.
Volume 1 of Kenneth Hamilton plays Ronald Stevenson was CD of the Week for Klassik Heute in Germany, and praised by critics worldwide:
"Hamilton brings exactly the right degree of control to the unstoppable streams of musical ideas, without ever compromising their energy or technical brilliance." Andrew Clements, The Guardian
"All the pieces are tackled with real passion. This is an unmissable disc, and one waits impatiently for Volume Two." Colin Clarke, Fanfare
"Excellent...a revelatory and enriching listen." Dr Chang Tou Liang, Straits Times, Singapore
"A gorgeous recording and excellent performance…Kenneth Hamilton’s sumptuous tone is part of the treat." Jack Sullivan, American Record Review
"A splendid introduction to those unfamiliar with this composer…Strongly Recommended." Guy Rickards, Musical Opinion
"Kenneth Hamilton is quite magnificent…One marvels at Stevenson’s creative genius, particularly in performances as fine as these." Bruce Reader, The Classical Reviewer
"Hamilton has both the insight and the facility to bring every corner of his teacher’s music to life. The recording is a pure joy to hear." Adam Fergler, Without Barlines
"Splendid…the compositional and virtuoso aspects of the disk are frankly stunning." Geoffrey Atkinson, British Music Journal
"I relished this first volume of Kenneth Hamilton’s exploration of Ronald Stevenson’s music…I do hope that ‘Volume 1’ is the first of a large edition of Ronald Stevenson’s piano music." John France, Music Web International
"Hamilton presents this fascinating music with power, passion and precision." Peter Burwasser, Fanfare
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'Beren and Lúthien'
Following the successful release last year of The Fall of Gondolin, the closing segment of the series of ‘epic scenes’ drawn from J R R Tolkien’s posthumous writings for The Silmarillion, Prima Facie Records in collaboration with Volante Opera Productions now presents a recording on 2 CDs of Beren and Lúthien, Part Two of Paul Corfield Godfrey’s cycle written during the period 1982-97 and employing a large variety of posthumously published texts by the author with the permission of the Tolkien Estate. The cycle, extending in performance over four evenings, is the largest-scale work of classical music written in Wales in the twentieth century, demanding a full roster of solo singers, chorus and orchestra, but has only ever been performed in excerpts until now.
As before, the singers are all professional artists from Welsh National Opera, and the sets make available for the first time a fully representative recording of the music with the complete lyrics by Tolkien. Because of budgetary and other constraints, the orchestra is represented by sampled sets (using the sounds of real instruments) which have been carefully balanced and adjusted in collaboration with the composer to obtain as close a result to the sound of an actual orchestra as possible. Commenting on this aspect, Brian Wilson in a review of The Fall of Gondolin for Music Web International remarked “I wondered how well this would work, but need have had no apprehensions; it works very well and it’s the only way such a project could have been realised. I need only say that the music is often hauntingly beautiful.”
The booklet with this set of Beren and Lúthien explains the methods of production in greater detail, and also includes an essay by the composer on the manner in which the author’s text has been adapted for music. Chris Seeman, reviewing The Fall of Gondolin for the Tolkien Music Website, remarked that the work “delivers nearly two hours of pure Tolkienian epic – Tolkienian not simply by virtue of its subject matter but more importantly by its libretto, which is 100% Tolkien’s own text. Or rather texts. In order to flesh out each essential movement of the story, Godfrey has made eclectic use of a variety of texts pertaining to the tale, much as the published Silmarillion was synthesised by Christopher Tolkien from the different manuscripts available to him.” He described the set as “a superb rendition of an unparalleled story [whose] greatest virtue lies in its ability to enhance rather than overshadow that story.”
This musical work was composed before the publication of Beren and Lúthien by J R R Tolkien, ed. C R Tolkien, in 2017 and is not associated with it. The literary work is © The Tolkien Estate Limited and C R Tolkien 2017. BEREN AND LÚTHIEN is a trade mark of The Tolkien Estate Limited
Reviews for Preludes to Chopin:
"Brilliantly captures both the musical and the technical content…well judged and beautifully played." John France, Music Web International
This recording has a uniquely special sound, which drapes the music in a round, full, Romantic tone-colour.” Radio 100.7 Luxembourg
"The commercial success of this release shows how strongly audiences hunger for fresh interpretations of mainstream repertory, and a fresh interpretation is exactly what you get.“ James Manheim, AllMusic