DIATOMS (PFCD095) £12.50/£17.50
Music for two pianos, piano four hands and solo piano by Kenneth Hesketh
Performed by the Green Duo (Antoine Francoise, piano, and Robin Green, piano) and Kenneth Hesketh (piano)
1-3 Three Movements from Theatrum [1996, two piano version, 2013]
Inductio; Scurriae - Solis Perfunditor; Gyrus
4 Notte Oscura [2002, two piano version, 2013]
5 Pour Henri (2011)
6 What if...? (op[f]er) [2008, piano 4 hand version, 2011]
7 The Lullaby of the Land Beyond (in fond memory of Oliver Knussen)
8-11 Diatoms 
Diatom I (to RD) Preciso. Diatom II (to SH) Con Forza (con la logica brutale). Diatom III (to DD) - (skyhooks and cranes) Scorrevole e delicato. Diatom IV (to CH in memoriam)
"Intricate and demanding" - "enthralling, exhilarating and beguiling" - "a musical challenge that is rewarding to take up" Classical Source review
This fascinating new collection of work for two pianos, piano four hands and solo piano is performed by the Green Duo, Antoine Francoise and Robin Green, and by the composer Kenneth Hesketh. All but one of the works on this disc were originally conceived for different instrumental combinations (orchestra, quartet or large ensemble), and the versions recorded here, for two pianos, or piano four hands, were made specifically for the Green Duo. The one dedicated two-piano work that gives this disc its title, 'Diatoms', was written for and premièred by them. An innate and sensitive musicality, technical brilliance and penchant for bold programming lie at the heart of the Green Duo's craft. This disc is a record of Kenneth Hesketh’s close interaction with them.
Kenneth Hesketh has been described as "a composer who both has something to say and the means to say it" (Tempo magazine). Born in Liverpool in 1968, Hesketh’s first orchestral work was premiered by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra when he was still a teenager. His time as a chorister at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral stimulated a lifelong interest in sonority, acoustical space, medieval texts and iconography. He studied at the Royal College of Music in London, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and most significantly with Henri Dutilleux at the Tanglewood summer school. Hesketh is now a professor of composition and orchestration at the Royal College of Music and honorary professor at Liverpool University.
The disc is predominantly works for 4 hands and two pianos but two of the solo pieces are performed by the composer himself. One of the pieces, 'The Lullaby of the Land Beyond (in fond memory of Oliver Knussen)', is a moving tribute to the composer Oliver Knussen. The composer writes;
"The title of this short work comes from Stravinsky’s 'Le baiser de la fée', itself an elaboration of material by Tchaikovsky. That Stravinsky and lullaby feature together seemed an apt point of departure for a piece dedicated in fond memory of composer and conductor Oliver Knussen. Knussen’s affection for Stravinsky is well known, as was his penchant for lullabies of various types. Perhaps his most famous is the one he wrote for his daughter, Sonya. This lullaby is the first of various allusions to works that relate to Knussen’s work as well as the idea of death and memorial, be it Knussen’s second fantasy opera 'Higgelty Piggelty Pop', or his 'Prayer Bell Sketch' (in memory of his friend Takemitsu) or even Wozzeck. Two more distant ideas also feature, one a reference to the coronation scene from Mussorgsky’s 'Boris Godunov' (which Knussen used in his first fantasy opera 'Where the Wild Things Are') and a lesser known work of Knussen’s, 'Frammenti di Chiara' for female chorus. Following Knussen's death, a portion of Sendak's libretto for 'Higgelty Piggelty Pop', sung by the Ash tree, came, with dolour, to mind:
'The birds are gone, my leaves are dead and soon I'll have nothing but the empty frozen night.'
This miniature acts as a small wreath left on the path of the way to Castle Yonder."
Recorded and produced by Stephen Plews and Kenneth Hesketh in May and September 2015.
We are grateful to Aaron Shackleford for the use of his premises and pianos in Macclesfield: https://shacklefordpianos.com/
We used two Feurich 7Ft grand pianos to record.
Sleeve design by Stephen Plews.
Edited and mastered by Phil Hardman.
Kenneth Hesketh has been described as “one of the UK's most vibrant voices, having a brand of modernism that reveals true love for sound itself” (International Piano) and as "a composer who both has something to say and the means to say it” (Tempo magazine). Hesketh has received numerous national and international commissions and has worked with leading ensembles and orchestras in the USA, Far East and Europe. He is a professor of composition and orchestration at the Royal College of Music, honorary professor at Liverpool University and active as a guest lecturer.