The Piano Music of John Joubert (PFCD097) £12.50
Duncan Honeybourne - piano
1-5 Dance suite, Op.21
6 Piano Sonata no.1 Sonata in One Movement, Op. 24
7-9 Piano Sonata no.2, Op71
10 Lyric Fantasy on themes from the opera Jane Eyre, Op. 144
11-13 Piano Sonata no.3, Op. 157
Duncan Honeybourne writes:
“The spring of 2017 offered me a heartwarming opportunity to revisit the complete piano music of a composer who has been highly significant in my musical life. John Joubert celebrated his 90th birthday in March, an occasion I marked by presenting the cycle as an evening recital at the Birmingham and Midland Institute. This creative artist of trenchant expressive power, finely tuned eclecticism, visionary intensity and refined craftsmanship has, over some six decades, enriched the solo piano repertoire with a sequence of personal and dramatic essays: each of them with a distinctive individuality, yet charting a compelling and logical narrative when presented as a whole. The three piano sonatas constitute in themselves a major cycle, the triptych charting an instructive journey through different seasons of his career and musical mindset. Most striking for me as an omnipresent juxtaposition throughout the cycle is the irresistible coalescence of the violent and the consoling, the heart-stoppingly lyrical and the menacingly unsettling, the sumptuously tender and the bracingly aggressive. Rarely, if ever, have the percussive and the song-like attributes of the piano fused more organically, or to more dramatic - and beautiful - effect. The jagged rhythms of the irresistible early Dance Suite and the warm lines of the operatic Lyric Fantasy complement the cycle of sonatas very effectively.”
Musical Opinion magazine wrote of the recital thus: “Honeybourne brought both intellectual and physical stamina to these works whose demands offer so many rewards in terms of rhythmic vigour, melodic and harmonic generosity, and immense emotional release.”
Of the three sonatas: “the single-movement First almost improvisatory and Tippettian in its questing and leaping intervals, the Second limpidly, beautifully phrased and articulated by Honeybourne, the Third neo-Romantic in its rhetoric, and performed with a sense of rediscovery – as indeed was the entire recital….As throughout the entire programme, Honeybourne showed himself instinctively attuned to Joubert’s sense of structure and colour.”
It was at that 90th birthday concert that Joubert suggested Honeybourne might record the complete cycle of his piano music, a project now brought to joyful fruition by Prima Facie.
Duncan Honeybourne, the dedicatee of the Third Piano Sonata, has been closely associated with Joubert’s piano music for many years. Honeybourne met John Joubert whilst a student in Birmingham and, working extensively with the composer, went on to give the Irish première of the Second Piano Sonata and the London and Birmingham premières, as well as the first broadcast of the Lyric Fantasy. It was Joubert’s own suggestion that he compose a third piano sonata for Duncan; the work was completed in 2005 and premièred the following year.
John Joubert, one of our best-loved and most distinguished senior composers, has been at the forefront of British musical life for seven decades, producing a steady stream of masterpieces in a plethora of genres. Born in Cape Town in 1927, he came to England in 1946 to study at the Royal Academy of Music and has long been settled in Birmingham, where he was a Senior Lecturer (and later Reader) in Music, before taking early retirement to concentrate on composition. His 80th and 90th birthdays have been marked with major celebrations of his life and retrospectives of his work.