From the Sleevenotes: Sonatas by Andrew Downes

Sleevenotes from Prima Facie Records PFCD241 Sonatas by Andrew Downes

Mosaic with cello, double bass and horn

1-3 Sonata for Double Bass and Piano

I. Lento
II. Allegro con fuoco
III. Adagio e molto espressivo

4-6 Sonata for Horn and Piano

I. Andante molto e espressivo
II. Allegro moderato
III. Andante leggiero

7-9 Sonata for Cello and Piano

I. Moderato e drammatico
II. Adagio e molto espressivo
III. Allegro vivace

Total Time [61.43]

Sonata for Double Bass and Piano, Op.90 (2006)

Recorded in the Gransden Hall, Merritt Centre, Sherbourne School, July 14th, 2022.

Andrew’s friend and pianist, Duncan Honeybourne suggested Andrew write a Double Bass Sonata for his recitals with David Daly, Principal Bass in the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Duncan and David premiered the work at Christchurch Priory on June 14th 2007, as part of the Christchurch Festival.

Movement 1 Lento
The double bass starts the work with a low, slow theme full of mystery, with gentle comments from the piano. The piano leads into a quicker accompaniment and the double bass strides around it. The piano then introduces a chordal passage which becomes increasingly gentle and tender, and leads back into a repeat of the moods of the beginning. As the piece moves through to the repeat of the gentle chords, the double bass plays high, heartfelt notes with the piano. With the return of the quicker piano accompaniment, the music gradually becomes more rhythmic, followed by a slow trill subject, where the piano and the bass become passionate. After a short recapitulation of the opening themes, a beautiful coda, where the piano plays extremely high, then lower, while the bass plays an imitative pizzicato theme, brings the first movement to a close with a final version of its comments from the beginning

Movement 2 Allegro con fuoco
The second movement begins with a low stomping accompaniment on the piano in 6/8 time, soon joined by the staccato double bass, creating a romping dance-like tune, interspersed with short high and low flourishes from the bass. Rising chords on the piano take the movement forward and a sincere double bass melody ensues, beginning on harmonics. A deep, mysterious passage reminiscent of movement 1 follows and becomes emotional in mood. The stomping dance from the beginning takes over and the 2 instruments dance boisterously along together. Rising chords and another heartfelt passage, ending on harmonics, interrupt the flow, but the dance returns to bring the movement to an exhilarating close.

Movement 3 Adagio e molto espressivo
A rising adagio tune, reminiscent of the opening of movement 1, but becoming more romantic in character, forms the basis of the first subject of movement 3. The second subject is given to the piano, in the form of an expressive cantabile tune over chords. The bass accompanies with rhythmic pizzicato and arco comments. The two subjects are repeated and developed. For the coda, the music returns to the energetic dance of the 2nd movement, for a jubilant ending.
Programme notes by Cynthia Downes

Sonata for Horn and Piano, Op.68 (1998)

Recorded in the Rudolfinum, Prague, March 20th, 2022.

This work was commissioned by Roland Horvath, Horn player from the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Roland was the founder of the Vienna Horn Society, of which James Lowe was a member. James Lowe, with American pianist, Ann Madison, gave the first performance of the work in the Theresianische Akademie in Vienna on 17th March 2001 and a second performance in a Salon Concert at the home of Roland Horvath in June 2001.

The Vienna Horn Society then went on to make 2 CDs of horn and piano music, Messen und Sonaten and Schlosskonzert. Andrew’s music featured on each: his Sonata for 4 Horns, Suite for 6 Horns, his Piano Sonata No.1, played by Ann Madison, and his Sonata for Horn and Piano, played by James Lowe and Ann Madison. Further performances of the Horn Sonata were given by James Lowe and Ann Madison in the Austrian Gesellschaft fuer Musik in Vienna in December 2001, in Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Nebraska, USA, in August 2002, at Birmingham Conservatoire on 22nd September 2003 (UK premiere), and in the Vienna ‘Haus der Komponisten’ in December 2004.

On September 20th 2008 Ondřej Vrabec, Principal horn player of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, with his accompanist, Daniel Wiesner, gave the Czech premiere in the Villa Bertramka Mozart Museum in Prague. In 2011 two performances of the Horn Sonata were taking place on opposite sides of the world on the same weekend! Robert Stonestreet with Amanda Hodder gave the first Australian performance of the Sonata at the University of Tasmania on 21st November, and on 23rd November the Scottish premiere was given by Joe Boyd at the North East Scotland Festival of Music, in a concert given by the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland Futures.

“Downes’ Sonata combines plainchant, jazz and folk music. He knows the instrument so well, and what works and what doesn’t. He writes beautiful lyrical lines and contrasts them with complex rhythms and thematic ideas.” Robert Stonestreet THE MERCURY (Tasmania)

The second Czech performance of the Horn Sonata was given by Monika Cerovska – student of Ondřej Vrabec – accompanied by Jarmila Panochova, in the Masters Concert in the Gallerie Hall of the Academy of Performing Arts, Prague, in March 2018.

In the spring of 2022, Ondřej Vrabec with pianist Daniel Wiesner recorded the work for this CD at the Rudolfinum, Prague.

This work has been transcribed by Cynthia Downes for Viola and Piano. This transcription has been recorded in 2017 by violist and violinist Rupert Marshall Luck, with pianist Duncan Honeybourne, for CD, together with Andrew Downes’ works for violin and piano, on the EM Records label. Marshall-Luck writes in his notes, “A compositional characteristic that is evident in the Viola Sonata is the marked degree of repetition involved: this can range from the reiteration of a set of pitches, or of entire phrases or sets of phrases. The latter is especially marked in the Viola Sonata, and it is most invigorating for performers, offering as it does many opportunities for interpretive variation and for presenting different views of a section of music. This can result in an enhanced understanding on the part of a listener of a phrase – just as one’s appreciation of a sculpture can be heightened by examining it from different angles: as the pattern of light on the object and the apparent relationship between the various surfaces change, so does one’s awareness of the form increase. Imitative writing between the viola and piano also gives the opportunity for alternative views to be presented – in these cases, the alternative view embraces differences in articulation and colour that result from the inherent nature of the instruments.”

Movement 1 Andante molto e espressivo, Allegro vivace, Nobilmente
The lone horn opens the work with a high melody, as if the player is calling from a mountain top. The pianist responds with a warm cantabile accompaniment. The horn then answers its own introduction. A rhythmic allegro follows with great momentum, eventually leading into a nobilmente section, followed by a period of reflection, and ultimately a broad soaring tune over ostinato semiquavers in the piano. Throughout the movement, dramatic phrases dominate at climactic moments, where the horn is required to be low and rasping, and high and passionate by turns. The recapitulation and development of the opening ideas of the movement reaches its climax at the jubilant return of the broad melody over excited ostinato semiquavers, which is interrupted by echoes of the quieter ideas, to end the movement.

Movement 2 Allegro moderato
The first subject of the second movement is inspired by the hunting horn, but demands greater gymnastics from the player. The piano echoes and provides a strident accompaniment. Extravagant phrases high and low follow, juxtaposed with contrasting gentle flowing cantabile passages.

Movement 3 Andante leggiero
This sublime movement begins with an intensely moving chordal accompaniment, which provides an exquisite cushion for a profoundly spiritual melody on the horn. The passage is thankfully repeated. A repeated answering passage gradually brings more passion to the mood. A reflective section leads back to the beautiful music of the beginning and on to a heavenly coda, where ostinato demi-semiquavers accompany a new tune on the horn. A short declamatory passage leads to the return of the opening mood and brings the work to a gracious ending reminiscent of ‘The Last Post‘.
Programme notes by Cynthia Downes

Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op.86 (2001)

Recorded in West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge, May 1st, 2022.

Having given a number of recitals with cellist, Sharon McKinley, Andrew’s friend and pianist, Duncan Honeybourne suggested Andrew might be interested in writing a cello work for them to include in their concerts. The Sonata for Cello and Piano is very powerful, full of dramatic contrasts. Sharon and Duncan first performed it on March 23rd 2004 in the Birmingham Conservatoire Music Xtra Festival. Andrew had founded this Festival for his School of Creative Studies at the Conservatoire in 1992 and organised a week of concerts every year thereafter.

The review of the premiere of the Sonata was very favourable:
‘… contrast (fierceness/lyricism, delicacy/drama) was explored through often ritualistic instrumental exchanges, generating a succession of evolving
episodes. Pianist, Duncan Honeybourne… and cellist Sharon McKinley’s… pensive and tender dialogue in the third movement and the cello’s simple and dignified theme in the second delivered real emotional warmth.’ BIRMINGHAM POST

Duncan went on to perform the work with cellist Rosalie Curlett in St Mary’s Church, Weymouth in 2012. Cellist Graham Walker made the recording for this CD in May 2022 at West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge, with Andrew’s son-in-law, and pianist, David Trippett.

The first movement, Moderato e drammatico, opens with a highly charged, energetic first subject, first on solo cello, then with the piano echoing each cello phrase. The cello part opens out the theme and becomes more song like while the piano left hand echoes and the right hand plays a rhythmical counter theme. The role of each hand is then reversed. The piano then reiterates the opening idea while the cello punctuates with pizzicato. Appassionato scale-like passages carry this opening section to an abrupt close. A new tenderoso e leggiero section follows. The cello leads to a return of the molto drammatico theme, this time pizzicato. This is interrupted by a second cantabile section, this time with a greater rhythmic drive and ending with two high chords. Another return to the first subject follows, played by the piano, with accompanying flourishes in the cello. As the piano becomes more frenzied, the cello offers pizzicato punctuation and then plays the second cantabile theme over a dramatic and rhythmic accompaniment. The same idea is developed in a misterioso ma appassionato section. The drama of the opening finally returns to bring the movement to an exciting and frenzied close.

The second movement, Adagio e molto espressivo, begins with a long passage, legato ma drammatico, on accompanied cello. A simple, gentle accompaniment on piano carries forward and develops the theme, while the cello sings above or plays a repeated pizzicato motif. Repeated chords on the piano introduce a new and more grandiose melody. This in turn is followed by a developed reiteration of the repeated pizzicato idea. The movement gains more of a ‘swing’, with rhythmical scale-like flourishes and pizzicato answering phrases. Flowing passages reintroduce drama and lead to a return of the opening music. A molto legato e sostenuto accompaniment moves via pizzicato cello into a new cantabile theme with pizzicato interruptions and ends with highly dramatic and majestic gestures.

In the final movement, Allegro vivace, the piano, with a jazzy, rhythmic and ‘groovy’ motif, accompanies a jubilant, vocal-like melody in the cello, which in itself is punctuated by pizzicato interjections. A quiet, pensive middle section gradually gains in emotion and momentum, after which there is a reintroduction and extensive development of the energetic opening ideas. The coda develops all the material in an even more rhythmical and frenzied way, and leads to an abrupt and exciting close.
Programme notes by Cynthia Downes

Andrew Downes

Composer Andrew Downes was born in Handsworth, Birmingham, in 1950, into a well-known Midlands family of musicians. He won a choral scholarship to St John’s College, Cambridge, where he specialised in composition, and in 1974 went on to study at the Royal College of Music with Herbert Howells, who wrote of him as ‘one of the most effective composers coming to me these days. I have very considerable hopes for him’. His emergence as a leading international composer was combined with a strong academic profile as an innovative and inspired educator: he created and was Head of the School of Composition and Creative Studies at the Birmingham School of Music (now Royal Birmingham Conservatoire) for 30 years, and following his retirement, devoted himself solely to composition. His output included an opera, six symphonies, numerous concerti and chamber works, song cycles, piano music and a large body of choral and sacred music.

Downes’s music has been performed in many leading concert halls, cathedrals and festivals worldwide, and has been broadcast on BBC Radios 2, 3 and 4, BBC TV, Czech Radio, France Musique, Italian TV, Austrian Radio, Dutch Radio and Central Peking Radio. Over 20 CDs of his music have been issued on a range of labels, plus a DVD of his opera Far from the Madding Crowd. His numerous commissions included The Marshes of Glynn, for the Royal Opening of Birmingham’s Adrian Boult Hall in 1986; the Overture In the Cotswolds for the opening concert of the Three Choirs Festival; song cycles for Sarah Walker and John Mitchinson, both premièred on BBC Radio 3; anthems for the BBC Radio 4 Daily Service; and the overture Towards a New Age, premièred by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Symphony Hall, Birmingham. Downes’s Concerto for Four Horns and Orchestra was commissioned for and premièred by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in the Dvorak Hall, Prague, in 2002, and recorded by Czech Radio the following year. His Sonata for Violin, Horn and Piano was premièred by the Brahms Trio Prague at the Suk Hall of the Rudolfinum, Prague, in 2008, and subsequently released internationally on the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra Artesmon label. Downes’s Piano and Horn Concertos were premièred at Birmingham UK Town Hall in 2009 and 2012 respectively. Downes’s lyrical gift, with the inflections of the human voice ever discernible, places him squarely in the Late Romantic English tradition and renders him a worthy successor to Howells. So too does his contrapuntal ingenuity and textural athleticism, with the church music of the great Tudor masters frequently recalled. But the indigenous musics of other cultures, and jazz and rock music, are also treasured influences and reflect the depth of responsibility Downes felt as an educator to instruct and enthuse in a broad range of traditions, and not purely in western art music. The Violin Sonata, for instance, is based on Indian rāgas and incorporates striking rhythmic displacements and syncopations to brilliant effect. The Sonata for Double Bass and Piano, premiered by David Daly and Duncan Honeybourne at the Christchurch Priory Festival in 2007, broadly reflects a more pastoral English tradition, highlighting the lyrical qualities of this most overlooked of instruments and offering moments of great poignancy as well as playfulness.
Biography by Duncan Honeybourne

https://www.andrewdownes.com

The Performers

David Daly has been the principal Double Bass with the Bournemouth Symphony since 1985, performing in such iconic venues as New York’s Carnegie Hall, all the way to intimate venues like residential homes in Dorset. The common aspect David has witnessed in all these places is the power of music to touch hearts and to bring a light and joy into peoples lives.

David fell in love with the Double bass aged just twelve when his father brought one home. He has especially loved the opportunity that the BSO offers to play in a world class orchestra, yet live in the heart of Dorset. With the BSO David has toured in America, Europe and Asia and has also recorded over 300 CD’s. 2017 saw the release of a solo CD of some of David’s favourite solo bass repertoire, including a piece which his Great Uncle had played on the Titanic, called ‘Erin’s Lament’ which was played on BBC Radio3 and Classic FM.

“A noble pursuit [Titanic Double Bass] that showcases the range of the mighty double bass well” BBC Music April 2019

David and Duncan were thrilled when Andrew Downes composed his wonderful sonata for their duo partnership. Having performed it a number of times to great acclaim, it has been a delight to be able to revisit the sonata’s captivating and contrasting moods in this recording.

Pianist Duncan Honeybourne enjoys a colourful and diverse career as a pianist and in music education. Commended for his “gripping performances” (The Times), “glittering performances” (International Piano), “refulgent warmth” (The Strad) and “great technical facility and unfailing imagination” (Musical Opinion), he is best known for his interpretations of 20th and 21st century British piano music.

He made concerto debuts at Symphony Hall, Birmingham and the National Concert Hall, Dublin, in 1998, and gave debut recitals in London, Paris, and at international festivals in Belgium and Switzerland. Since then he has toured extensively in the UK, Ireland and Europe as soloist and chamber musician, appearing at major venues and leading festivals and broadcasting frequently on BBC Radio 3 and radio networks worldwide. He has premiered more than 70 new piano works written for him by composers including John Joubert, John Casken, Sadie Harrison and Cecilia McDowall, plus the Andrew Downes Piano Concerto at Birmingham Town Hall in 2009. He has also revived many forgotten scores by composers of earlier generations and has made premiere recordings of piano music by Baines, Bainton, Gurney, Armstrong Gibbs, Walford Davies and others. Duncan enjoyed a long association with Andrew Downes and his music, premiering many of Downes’ piano and chamber works.

Duncan Honeybourne teaches at the Royal Academy of Music Junior Academy, the University of Southampton and Sherborne School, and gives frequent masterclasses, adjudications and lecture recitals.
www.duncanhoneybourne.com

Hornist Ondřej Vrabec (1979) is an extraordinary figure on the Czech music scene. He continues, after over two decades, to successfully advance his artistic career as an award-winning conductor, seasoned solo horn player at the Czech Philharmonic, sought-after chamber musician, respected teacher of French Horn at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague and Chief conductor of the Carlsbad Symphony Orchestra. He graduated from the Prague Conservatory (prof. B. Tylšar, V. Válek, H. Farkač, M. Němcová, M. Košler) and the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (prof. R. Eliška, J. Bělohlávek, F. Vajnar and others). He supplemented his studies with numerous master classes (e.g. London Master Classes, Hornclass, the French-Czech Academy of Music). The most valuable impulse shaping his artistic approach was his long-term concert collaboration with the elite of the international school of wind (S. Azzolini, M. Bourgue), while in the conducting field artistic support from important international conductors (Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Benjamin Zander, Jiří Bělohlávek etc.). Ondřej Vrabec holds the title of absolute winner in the Conservatory Competition in Ostrava, while he won several other laureate titles as a chamber musician (Concertino Praga, Chomutov, the Mozart society competition, etc.). He was awarded 2nd Prize and Special Prize at the 1st Hans von Bülow International Conducting Competition in 2021 and 3rd prize at the 1st Arthur Nikisch International Conducting Competition in 2020. In the Prague Spring 2007 and Tokyo 2015 international conducting competitions he was awarded honourable mentions by the juries. He was first chair in the French horn group of the Czech Philharmonic even before sitting his school-leaving examinations at the age of 17.

Ondrej has performed and recorded numerous works by Andrew Downes, and most notably conducted the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in a CD of Downes’ Symphonies and Overtures for the Artesmon label, released in 2016 to critical acclaim.
www.ondrejvrabec.com

Pianist Daniel Wiesner studied at the Prague Conservatoire under Valentina Kameníková and at the Academy of Performing Arts in the studio of Peter Toperczer. In 1988 and 1990 he took part in masterclasses with Rudolf Kehrer in Weimar. In additon to several prizes from Czech competitions, which he won while still a student at the conservatoire, he is a winner of the International Piano Competition in Glasgow (1990) and a laureate of the Vianna da Motta Competition in Lisbon. In 1993 he won the Hlávka Foundation Prize, and in 2009 the Czech Music Council Prize for outstanding interpretation of contemporary music and the promotion of Czech music.

As a soloist and a sought-after performer of chamber music, he has appeared in concerts in most European countries as well as in the USA, Jordan, and Tunisia. He belongs to several chamber ensembles (for example, since 1994 he has been a member of In modo camerale, which won the 1996 Czech Chamber Music Society Prize, and the same year was a finalist at a chamber music competition in Osaka, Japan), and he collaborates with renowned soloists. He has given the premieres of several of the compositions in his broad repertoire, and his discography is extensive. He has recorded several solo CDs with works by such composers as Bedřich Smetana, Zdeněk Fibich, Sergei Prokofiev, Karel Boleslav Jirák, and Miloslav Kabeláč. He devotes himself intensively to contemporary music, especially Czech, and he has several dozen premieres and many CD recordings to his credit. He also makes recordings regularly for Czech Radio.

He has appeared as a soloist with leading Czech orchestras including the Czech Philharmonic (2002 – Bartók Piano Concerto, 2004 – Martinů Double Concerto, 2008 – Messiaen Oiseau exotiques and Couleurs de la Cité Céleste, 2010 – Gemrot Piano Concerto, world premiere), the Prague Symphony Orchestra ( 2005 – Messiaen: Turangalila Symphony, 2006 – Mozart Piano Concerto in C Major), and many others.

From 2008 to 2013 he taught piano at the Pardubice Conservatoire. Since 2012, he has been engaged at the Department of Piano Accompaniment at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague.

Graham Walker is an award-winning cellist and conductor who combines an active career directing choirs and orchestras with solo and chamber cello playing around the world. As a cellist, Graham has performed across Europe and North and South America. Graham is a highly respected choral conductor, and directs several choirs and orchestras; his first recording as a conductor, made when he was just 22, featured the music of Jean Mouton, a 16th-century Flemish composer, much of whose music was being recorded for the first time. Graham’s discography as a cellist and conductor reflects his wide musical interests. His most recent album with his Latin-American group Classico Latino (“Salsa Classics”) was warmly received by critics, concert-goers and salsa nightclub DJs alike. His first two CDs with Karolos, of chamber music by Stephen Dodgson, were released in 2018 on the Naxos label to rave reviews in the critical press; their third disc, featuring Mozart’s E Flat Divertimento K563, is currently in post-production.

Graham’s work with Classico Latino has led him to discover the wealth of the Latin American musical repertoire, music which is almost entirely unknown outside the continent. With the group he has toured South America on several occasions, and in 2011 he was awarded a plaque live on Colombian national television in recognition of his “outstanding contribution to Colombian Andean music”. Graham is Director of Music at Emmanuel College Cambridge and Director of St John’s Voices.

“Little short of ideal, perfect in intonation… lively and delicate” Gramophone; “Brilliantly handled” The Observer; “Compelling” The Strad

David Trippett is a pianist and cultural historian at the University of Cambridge, where he is Professor of Music and a Fellow of Christ’s College. He has performed widely in Germany, the UK, and on both coasts of America, in venues from the Britten-Pears festival in Aldeburgh and the Liszt Academy in Budapest to the Library of Congress in Washington DC. Most recently, he has begun directing the Philharmonia Orchestra and Philharmonia Voices in a new recording project of music by Andrew Downes.

His research into Franz Liszt’s manuscripts led to the rediscovery of Liszt’s Italian opera, Sardanapalo (c. 1851), whose critical edition he published with the Neue Liszt Ausgabe. He orchestrated this in a performing edition (Schott), whose world premiere recording, under Kirill Karabits and the Staatskapelle Weimar, topped the UK’s Classical charts in 2019, and was included in the Guardian’s top 10 CDs of 2019. Critics hailed it as ‘a brilliant musical achievement’ (FAZ), and ‘immensely important’ (Gramophone), whose music was celebrated as ‘white hot’ (The New York Times), with ‘starting lyric beauty’ (Bachtrack), with ‘deft characterisation and emotive power’ (Washington Post), in a ‘torridly exciting’ score whose ‘emergence changes music history’ (The Times).

As a scholar, his research focuses on nineteenth-century intellectual history, Richard Wagner, and the philosophy of technology. His publications include Wagner’s Melodies (Cambridge 2013), and edited volumes on Music in Digital Culture (Cambridge 2019) Nineteenth-Century Opera and the Scientific Imagination (Cambridge 2019), and Wagner in Context (Cambridge 2024). Alongside media appearances (BBC Radio 4, Radio 3, ARD, CNN), his work has been published widely, and has received several international awards, including the Alfred Einstein and Lewis Lockwood Prizes (American Musicological Society), the Bruno Nettl Prize (Society for Ethnomusicology), an ASCAP Deems Taylor award, and a Philip Leverhulme Prize. He is currently completing a monograph on sound and materialism in the nineteenth century, following a 5-year research project funded by the European Research Council.

Credits

Producer and engineer for tracks 1-3 and 7-9: Myles Eastwood
Sound Engineer for tracks 4-6: Oldřich Slezák
Producer for tracks 4-6: Markéta Janáčková
Mastering for all tracks: Myles Eastwood