Prima Facie Records

CD label featuring world premières by British composers

Giles Stephen
Prima Facie Records was formed by the meeting of two minds – Stephen Plews and the late Giles Easterbrook – 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.

Prima Facie

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Magna Carta (PFCD184) £12.50

The Complete Works for Guitar of John Brunning
Performed by Xuefei Yang with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor Clark Rundell
A Classic FM Album of the Week
A Spotify Pick

Magna Carta CD

This album features John Brunning’s complete works for guitar. At its heart is the world premiere recording of his Concerto Magna Carta, written for Xuefei Yang, and performed with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Clark Rundell.

Xuefei is again joined by the RLPO for the Five Romances in new arrangements for guitar and orchestra; and by cellist Johannes Moser for Lacrimosa in a duet for guitar and cello - also premiere recordings for these settings of the material.

With her previous album, ‘Sketches of China’, Xuefei brought the traditional music of her homeland to a wider international audience, and this latest release finds her highlighting the musical traditions of the British Isles.

Quefei Yang sitting with guitar in her hands
Xuefei Yang: "I first met John many years ago when he interviewed me for a music magazine. It was one of my very first interviews in the UK and I remember it vividly because he asked in-depth questions that demonstrated that he knew the guitar well. In our conversation I discovered that as well as being a radio presenter, he was also a guitarist and composer. I asked him to send me some scores, and discovered that John has a talent for writing beautiful melodies in the great tradition of English pastoral music, and being a guitarist himself, his music feels very natural to play. Over the years I have recorded and performed some of John’s music, and find audiences across the globe, and other musicians, enjoy his music. When he suggested writing a concerto for me, I thought it would create an opportunity to bring together all his works for guitar."

For more details of Magna Carta, please see the CD web page

Prima Facie

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Kenneth Hamilton plays Liszt Volume 1: Death and Transfiguration (PFCD167/168) £15.00

Kenneth Hamilton – piano

A UK Official Classical Chart Top 5 Recording
Featured in the Guardian Best Classical New Releases of 2021
Gramophone Editor’s Choice
BBC Radio 3 Record of the Week
MusicWeb International Recommended Recording
A Gramophone "Best Classical Album of 2022"

CD 1
1. Funérailles (Harmonies poétiques et religieuses) 11'58''
2. Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude (Harmonies poétiques et religieuses) 15'29''
3. Csárdás Macabre 7'12''
4. Pensée des Morts (Harmonies poétiques et religieuses)12'14''
5. Nuages Gris 2'40''
6. Sonata in b minor27'23''
CD 2
1. Ballade no. 2 in b minor 14'36''
2. En rêve (Nocturne) 2'09''
3. Abschied (Farewell): Russian Folksong 2'30''
4. Die Zelle in Nonnenwerth 6'08''
5. Dem Andenken Petofis 3'36''
6. Ave Maria (Harmonies poétiques et religieuses) 6'29''
7. Schubert/Liszt: Impromptu in Gb major 6'19''
8. Prelude on “Weinen, klagen” 5'43''
9. La Lugubre Gondola 1 4'21''
10. Romance 3'21''
11. Romance Oubliée 3'28''
12. Die Lorelei 6'29''
13. In Festo Transfigurationis Domini Nostri Jesu Christi 2'31''
14. Wagner/Liszt: Isoldens Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde 7'11''

Death and Transfiguration CD

"This wide-ranging collection of Liszt’s piano music meets its technical challenges with rare directness and clarity... As in Hamilton’s earlier discs –his recordings of Ronald Stevenson’s piano works especially- there is always the feeling that the music comes first, that the performances are a means to an end rather than a self-regarding end in themselves, and that is both liberating and totally refreshing for the listener." Andrew Clements, The Guardian
"A magnificent release, its contents perfectly judged and delivered with a balanced mix of virtuosity and intellect.“ Colin Clarke, Classical Explorer
"Kenneth Hamilton knows how to turn a CD into a deeply engaging intellectual and musical experience. He is one of the great treasures of the classical-music world today." Ralph Locke, ArtsFuse
"A fresh look at the composer’s career… this is a recording that brings the listener closer to Liszt’s inner personality." James Manheim, AllMusic
"Magisterial... a close and personal look at Liszt’s own thirst for spiritual sustenance and regeneration, his response to bereavement and how he found his peace...There is not a single vulgar work or superfluous note in these 152 minutes of music." Dr Chang Tou Liang, Pianomania
"Masterly readings…the pianist is one of these rare mortals whose erudite, elegant prose is matched by his eloquence at the keyboard... I cannot recommend this release too highly" Jeremy Nicholas, Gramophone
"richly rewarding and brilliantly played" Gramophone Editor's Choice
"The playing here is superb. Kenneth Hamilton brings a numinous quality to Liszt’s music that is often absent in other performances." John France, MusicWeb International
"throughout Hamilton’s Liszt recital, the control of colour, the delineation of the voices, the different instrumental qualities he brings to bear are strikingly effective…the Romantic warhorses the B minor Sonata and the Ballade emerge refreshed. The whole recital flows thoughtfully from beginning to end, and the notes are as illuminating as the playing." Andrew McGregor, BBC Radio 3 Record Review
"Just as I was beginning to despair of ever hearing Liszt that really set the heart racing along comes Kenneth Hamilton... I don’t think I have ever heard an account of [the Sonata] that brought out so richly the fecundity of Liszt’s inspiration. I was transported to an epic voyage through a Byronic landscape with heart stopping vistas at every turn... What Hamilton seems to get, and clearly revels in, is the role of imagination in this music, that in comparison to our prosaic age, Liszt’s was a poetic one. Hamilton possesses all the technical prowess one could wish for but, listening to him, it is, for once, audible that the virtuosity of Liszt’s music is needed to match the excessive nature of his inspiration... The word I keep coming back to with this new recording is richness and that applies equally well to the recorded sound. It made me realise how often Liszt is recorded in the equivalent of a garish spotlight. This is like hearing Liszt in a candlelit salon, full of shadows for demons, assignations and prayer vigils." David McDade, Music Web International

This is a Liszt recording with a difference: repertoire reflecting love, death and transfiguration, memory and nostalgia, performed by internationally renowned pianist and Liszt expert Kenneth Hamilton. It goes without saying that Hamilton has intensively studied the original scores of these pieces, but in addition he has sought out and taken seriously Liszt’s often ignored recommendations on their interpretation, passed down from the many reminiscences and recordings of students who worked closely with the composer. He has, in effect, tried to think like a Liszt pupil, to immerse himself in a performance tradition that goes beyond the printed text, and to respect Liszt’s long legacy of teaching his own music.

For more details, please see the CD web page

Prima Facie

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Opalescence (PFCD171) £12.50

Piano and chamber music by Ruth Gipps

Sonata for cello and piano, op. 63 (1978) – world premiere recording
The Fairy Shoemaker (1929) – world premiere recording
Theme and Variations, op. 57a (1965)
The Ox and the Ass Introduction and Carol, op. 71 (1988)
Opalescence, op. 72 (1989)
Scherzo and Adagio for Unaccompanied Cello, OP. 68 (1987) – world premiere recording
Sonata for Double Bass and Piano, op. 81 (1996) – world premiere recording

Opalescence CD

This extraordinarily gifted musical polymath, a woman of powerful creative imagination and intense intellectual rigour, was first and foremost a composer. As memories of Gipps (or ‘Wid’, as she always liked to be called) recede with the passing years, we are left solely with her output of some eighty works as a memorial to her daring, questing, romantic spirit. Cast in a broad range of forms and genres, these are fastidious in craftsmanship, overwhelmingly tonal, invariably lyrical and poetic, and frequently deeply affecting. ‘My music’, she wrote, to her biographer Jill Halstead, ‘is a follow-on from Vaughan Williams, Bliss and Walton – the three giants of British music since the Second World War. All were great and inspired composers.’ A vigorous exploration of Gipps’s wide-ranging output certainly offers abundant evidence of a highly individual genius whose vivid and communicative personality is unmistakeably and strongly her own. Many influences are distilled in her work, but a full- blooded originality sings throughout. This recording delves into a selection of Gipps’s chamber works, and presents her complete œuvre for solo piano, to commemorate the centenary of her birth in 2021. It features her first work – 'The Fairy Shoemaker' – and her last, the 'Sonata for double bass and piano', separated by some sixty-seven years.

Joseph Spooner (cello)
David Heyes (double bass)
Duncan Honeybourne (piano)

For more details, please see the CD web page

Prima Facie

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A Woman's Hand (PFCD172) £12.50

Selected piano works by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel
Performed by Helen Cawthorne

1. Allegro molto, C minor (1846)
2. without tempo indication, G minor (1844)
3. Allegro molto, E minor (1844)
4. Allegretto grazioso, Bb major (1836)
5. Andante, G major, op.2 no.1 (1836)
6. Prestissimo, C major (1836)
7. Adagio, Eb major (1843) (no. 10 from '12 Klavierstücke für Felix')
8. (op.8 no.1) Allegro moderato, B minor (1846)
9. (op.8 no.2) Andante con espressione, A minor (1846)
10. (op.8 no.3) Lied. Larghetto, Db major (1846)
11. (op.8 no.4) Wanderlied. Presto, E major (1846)
12. (op.5 no.4) Lento appassionato, B major (1846)
13. (op.5 no.5) Allegro molto vivace, G major (1840)
14. (op.5 no.6) Andante soave, Eb major (1840)
15. Allegretto ma non troppo, E minor (1843)
16. Allegro moderato, B major (1837)
17. Andante con moto, E major (1838)

A Woman's Hand CD

For more details, please see the CD web page

Prima Facie

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Passacaglia on a Theme of Benjamin Britten and other Organ Works by Richard Pantcheff (PFCD174/175) £15.00

Double CD – Simon Passmore organ

The re-emergence of a fragment of manuscript in Britten’s own handwriting (a theme written for Jean Langlais to improvise upon), unseen for over fifty years, prompted composer Richard Pantcheff to write a Passacaglia on a Theme of Benjamin Britten for organ, in honour of the composer. The work, based on the Langlais theme, was written also in response to a request from organist Jane Parker-Smith for a new organ work for the Britten 100 festival in 2013.

Other recent works appearing on this release include A Sequence for St. George, written for the inauguration of the new Rieger organ at St. George’s Anglican Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. This work, like the later Voces Organi (also included here) is a longer work comprising a number of shorter movements for use during the church’s year. Voces Organi uses plainsong themes as its basis and is written to allow the colours of the organ’s timbre to be vividly heard. This aspect of the work is amply demonstrated in the performance on this release, featuring organist Simon Passmore on the organ of St. Ann’s Church, Manchester.

Given the untimely death of Jane Parker-Smith in June 2020, this two-disc set is dedicated to her memory. She gave several premières of organ works by Richard Pantcheff, of which the Passacaglia on a Theme of Benjamin Britten is the foremost.

Organ Music of Richard Pantcheff CD

For more details, please see the CD web page

Prima Facie

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Fëanor (PFCD178/179) £15.00

Composed by Paul Corfield Godfrey
Double CD – Performed by Volante Opera

Country

FEANOR SAMPLE ONE: This is an example of the choral work from the end of Scene One where they are describing the beauty of the Elves at the beginning of their time in Middle-earth.
FEANOR SAMPLE 2: In this excerpt from the end of Scene Six Feanor (Simonn Crosby Buttle) has been warned by the Elder King not to pursue his path of vengeance against Morgoth. He defiantly responds...
FEANOR SAMPLE 3: This is the orchestral prelude to Scene Seven which is depicting the Shores of Valinor with the Great Sea to the East.

The completion in 1996 of the “epic scenes from The Silmarillion”, a four-part cycle drawn from the posthumous writings of J R R Tolkien, constituted the largest-scale work of classical music written in Wales in the twentieth century. With this landmark release of 'Fëanor', following on from their earlier successful issues of 'Beren and Lúthien', 'The Children of Húrin' and 'The Fall of Gondolin', Prima Facie in collaboration with Volante Opera Productions now completes the recording of that original cycle; and a further episode, 'The War of Wrath', written in 2019-21, is to follow in due course. All of these works employ a variety of posthumously published texts by the author with the permission of the Tolkien Estate. As before, the singers are all professional artists from Welsh National Opera; the booklet 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. The late Brian Wilson, reviewing The Children of Húrin for MusicWeb International, drew comparisons between the “genuinely epic” music of the cycle and that of Sibelius, Hildegard of Bingen, Vaughan Williams, Holst and Wagner: “It’s a very different ending from that of Götterdämmerung, but it’s worthy of mention in the same sentence – and there’s not much that is, in my book.”

Feanor CD

For more details, please see the CD web page

Prima Facie

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Music with Bass Instruments (PFCD180) £12.50

Daryl Runswick
Performed by Daryl Runswick and London Voices

1. Dance of Stillness (Bashô, Pacey, Runswick) 8:38 Daryl Runswick – layered vocals treated in real time, piccolo bass guitar
2. Sonata for Solo Double Bass (Runswick) 16:30 Daryl Runswick – NS Designs Omni Bass
3. The Phoenix and the Turtle (Shakespeare, Runswick) 15:02 London Voices; Daryl Runswick – NS Designs Omni Bass, percussion
4. Tutu (Miller) 5:18 Daryl Runswick – fretless alto guitar, bass guitar, vocals, sequenced backing

Music with Bass Instruments CD

Composer, singer, and improviser Daryl Runswick has had a long and widely varying career, but underneath it all he has always been, when the chips are down, a bassplayer. A cellist in his teens, he moved over first to the double bass, then added the bass guitar to his armoury. Classical, rock, jazz, it was all the same to him as his discography shows (The Soldier’s Tale with The Nash Ensemble, 200 Motels with Frank Zappa).

He has always been a melodic player, preferring the high register and soloing more than most of the exponents of grooving and grunting. To this end he ‘invented’, many years ago, two high-strung bass guitars, an ‘alto’ and a ‘piccolo’ on which to expand his tonal palette and pursue his flights of fancy. Both instruments are featured on this new CD which showcases his compositional and impro skills featuring both singing and instruments of the bass persuasion.

For more details, please see the CD web page

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News

Classic FM CD of the Week



'Magna Carta: The Complete Works for Guitar of John Brunning' was Classic FM's CD of the Week from 23.05.22.

The album was also selected for the A-List: Classical on Apple Music, and as a Spotify Classical New Release pick.

Kenneth Hamilton: acclaim for Liszt CD



Kenneth Hamilton's 'Liszt Volume 1: Death and Transfiguration' is a Gramophone "Best Classical Album of 2022". Read more on the Gramaphone review, and check out the CD webpage.

Giles Easterbrook album download


Giles Easterbrook, co-founder of Prima Facie Records, who sadly passed away on September 1st, 2021, composed music characterised by a ‘pronounced, sometimes astringent melodic gift’, ‘rhythmic subtlety’ and ‘an original, often unexpected harmonic sense’. 

Giles’ 2010 CD 'The Moon Underwater' has been out of print for some time, and as a tribute to him, Prima Facie Records have decided to make the music from the CD available, free, for streaming and high-quality download.

You can access the album at The Moon Underwater

ASC / Prima Facie at 25 – Concert


St Paul's concert poster
A special concert to celebrate 25 years of ASC / Prima Facie Records – and the 60th birthday of founder Stephen Plews – was held on 18th September 2021. The concert was in memory of our co-founder Giles Easterbrook.

Performers at the concert included Victoria String Quartet, pianists Alessandra Pompili and Simon Passmoe, recorderist John Turner, seen in the photo above, jazz duo Gavin Barras and Stephen Plews, and the Pleyel Ensemble. The varied programme featured music by Mozart, Britten and others.

Read more on the Prima Facie blog and this British Music Society review by Andrew Mayes

Kenneth Hamilton radio interview


More Preludes to Chopin CD
Prima Facie artist Kenneth Hamilton is featured on the US radio show 'Conducting Conversations', discussing his new CD 'More Preludes to Chopin'. The show features music from the CD and discusses Kenneth's career. Listen here: https://www.podbean.com/eu/pb-2j363-e66399

Reviews


Byzantium Connection
Review for The Byzantium Connection:
"There is much here to enjoy, whether you like classical, jazz, improvisation, contemporary, or just enjoy hearing really good music. A great CD with much to offer." David Heyes, Bass Magazine

Contemporary Piano Soundbites
Reviews for Contemporary Piano Soundbites:
"...this remarkable set of pieces...the recital seems to me perfect in every way. Duncan Honeybourne is a great champion for all these composers." John France, MusicWeb International
"The standard of the compositions and their interest and accessibility are all high...The recording is natural and warm...The booklet essay gives excellent background information on each of the composers and on their pieces." Gary Higginson, MusicWeb International

John Joubert piano Music
Reviews for The Piano Music of John Joubert:
"(Joubert’s complete piano music) is featured here in glittering performances from Duncan Honeybourne… The performances are fluent and powerful, alive to the full range of Joubert’s mercurial invention." International Piano, July 2019
"These are bold piano works that have earned their place in classical music history." British Music Society Journal, 2019
"This CD is a landmark with all Joubert's piano music... Honeybourne is totally sympathetic throughout this CD - a well-recorded claim for a neglected chapter in British piano music." (*****5 stars) Musical Opinion, Jan-March 2020

Ronald Stevenson Vol 2 CD
Reviews for Kenneth Hamilton Plays Ronald Stevenson Volume 2:
"I cannot fault the wonderful performance by Kenneth Hamilton of these works. The recording is always clear and bright. The entire programme is a subtle balance between original music and arrangements which well-reflects Stevenson’s achievement." John France, Music Web International
"A well-constructed, varied recital…performed with commendable verve." Guy Rickards, International Piano Magazine

Preludes to Chopin CD
MusicWeb Recording of the Month review for On the Shoreline
"The playing on this CD is outstanding. Every piece is delivered with care, commitment and obvious enthusiasm."

Preludes to Chopin CD
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

Return of the Nightingales CD
Excellent reviews
for Sadie Harrison's Return of the Nightingales