Kenneth Hamilton plays Ronald Stevenson Vol. 1 (PFCD050)
Order now - available on 23/09/16
Listen to 'Conducting Conversations', a Radio 95.9 FM WCRI podcast, featuring Kenneth Hamilton and with extracts from this CD:
Prima Facie has long been keen to record the powerful and multifarious music of Ronald Stevenson. Producer Steve Plews accordingly seized the opportunity when he met pianist Kenneth Hamilton, a former student and colleague of Stevenson's who plays his works with passion and conviction. Hamilton explains the background to this fascinating and timely CD, the first volume of a collection that includes several première recordings:
"I first heard of Ronald Stevenson when I was still a student. Lawrence Glover, my piano teacher at the then Royal Scottish Academy of Music in Glasgow (now Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) was a great friend of Stevenson’s, and mentioned him frequently during lessons, speaking with something akin to awe of his “astonishing keyboard mastery” and encyclopaedic awareness of the arcana of Romantic pianism. When I played Balakirev’s Oriental Fantasy Islamey to Lawrence, his immediate reaction was “Ronald Stevenson will really have to hear this!”.
By this time, Stevenson was already a respected but contentious figure in the cultural life of Scotland and the UK as a whole. His multifarious musical passions, the wide scope of his output, and his outright rejection of the more alienating elements of contemporary Western composition had led him to be labelled by some as a neo-Romantic reactionary (especially ironic, given his left wing social and political views) or even as a socialist-realist composer (which at least took into account these views). Born in Blackburn, Lancashire, in 1928, of Scottish and Welsh working-class stock, he had studied at the then Royal Manchester College of Music, moved to Scotland in 1952 with his wife, Marjorie, and thereafter strongly identified with his Celtic heritage.
But he had been born out of his time, as the aesthetic winds were then blowing in a direction that he found distinctly uncongenial. A generation of students from the same College only a few years younger than Stevenson, most prominently Harrison Birtwistle and Peter Maxwell Davies (both born in 1934), would go on to represent the so-called New Manchester School of musical modernism, while Stevenson carried on in a decidedly different vein. Despite this, the sheer scope, power and mastery of his Passacaglia on DSCH (1963) finally brought him international recognition.
It was not until 1990 that I actually met Stevenson himself in his cottage in West Linton, near Edinburgh, after an introduction brokered by the actor, writer and convivial polymath Derek Watson, who lived in the same village. By then I was keen to meet Stevenson not just because of his legendary pianistic prowess, but also because of his compositions. I had recently come across a recording by Stevenson himself of his magisterial Passacaglia, and had been stunned by both the piece and the playing.
Stevenson proved personally to be as generous and many-sided as his music, a fundamentally Lisztian figure transplanted into the late 20th century- although he physically rather resembled Paderewski, another of his great enthusiasms. To complete the quartet of artistic affinities, we should also add the names of Ferruccio Busoni and Percy Grainger. Stevenson studied and played the music of both these composers with a fervour amounting to obsession, and they had an ineluctable influence on his own artistry."
A Land so Luminous - Music by Richard Causton and Kenneth Hesketh (PFCD051)
A world première recording of music by Kenneth Hesketh and Richard Causton.
Order now - available on 12/09/16
'A Land So Luminous' showcases the exceptional talent of these two British composers, and is performed by the conductor Philip Headlam with The Continuum Ensemble and an outstanding array of soloists.
“Kenneth Hesketh composes music of delicate luminosity” - Fiona Maddocks, The Guardian
"Causton is among our most imaginative composers” - Paul Driver, The Sunday Times
Kenneth Hesketh (b. 1968) and Richard Causton (b. 1971) are among the foremost U.K. composers of their generation. 'A Land So Luminous' features their works for large ensemble, duo and trio as well as solo flute, cello and piano. A strikingly diverse and atmospheric collection, the music draws imaginative inspiration from a rich range of sources including Heinrich Hoffman’s nineteenth-century cautionary tales for children, 'Shock-Headed Peter', a poem by Marina Tsvetayeva, shamanic ritual and Fats Waller, as well as Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, K. 622.
Conductor Philip Headlam, long-time champion of these composers, sees 'A Land So Luminous' as an opportunity for Hesketh and Causton to gain recognition from audiences across the U.K. and beyond, and illustrate their outstanding creativity and craftsmanship.
Containing music never previously recorded, the acclaimed Continuum Ensemble is joined by a stellar line-up soloists: violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen (‘fearless intensity’ - The Guardian), soprano Mary Bevan (‘bewitching’ - The Independent), flautist Lisa Nelsen (‘a flautist and a half’ - The Times), cellist Joseph Spooner (‘tremendous musicianship’ - Fanfare) and Douglas Finch (‘a true virtuoso’ – The Independent).
Prima Facie Records
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.