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Metamorphosis (PFCD191) £12.50

Contemporary Music for Harpsichord Volume 1
Duncan Honeybourne harpsichord

Malcolm Lipkin: Metamorphosis 15:21

Kenneth Leighton: De Profundis 28:09

John McCabe: The Greensleeves Ground 9:40

Ronald Stevenson: Sonata for Harpsichord

I In Heroic Style 7:17
II Dirge 7:59
III Dance 2:41
IV Rondo 6:27

Metamorphosis CD

The 20th-century revival of the harpsichord initially enabled the playing of 17th and 18th century keyboard music on the instrument for which it was originally composed. But its sound gradually began to inspire 20th-century composers, and a contemporary repertoire of original harpsichord music developed.

Harpsichords built in the 20th century varied considerably in style and construction. Some of the earliest builders paid little attention to the light construction of surviving historic examples; the heavy casework and metal framing they introduced had a profound effect on the sound. The incorporation of a 16ft stop became common (rarely found on historic instruments) and pedal operated stop mechanisms enabled rapid changes of registers in what became known as a colouristic style of playing. Some of the 20th-century repertoire was clearly composed with such instruments in mind. A work that specifically indicates use of the 16-foot stop is Ronald Stevenson’s Sonata for Harpsicord, composed for Alan Cuckston in 1968. Its first movement is headed ‘In Heroic Style’, which could well apply to all four movements, such is the boldness and scale of its creation. It is played in this recording on a Goble two-manual concert harpsichord made in 1972.

Received opinion was that Kenneth Leighton’s De profundis (composed in 1977) was conceived for an instrument of this type, and was also recorded on the Goble harpsichord. However, from the composer’s programme note for the first performance, it appears that he intended use of an “18th-century style” harpsichord. Its title does not refer to Psalm 30, but to the opening of the work in which the melody of a set of continuous variations, is introduced “in the depths” of the instrument. Such is the atmosphere of the work in its entirety that it transcends any particular characteristic harpsichord sonority.

Malcolm Lipkin’s Metamorphosis (composed in 1974) is not, as the composer explained, a set of variations, but rather the gradual transformation of a thematic subject having three melodic fragments. The first performance by the work’s dedicatee, Heather Slade-Lipkin, was given on a harpsichord from the John Feldberg workshop constructed in 1971 and thus similar in character the Goble mentioned above. Nevertheless, we chose to record the work on a harpsichord made in 1991 by John Barnes after an instrument by Albertus Delin of about 1750. Its crisp, resonant sound seemed to bring a particular clarity to the textures of Lipkin’s harpsichord writing. The sound of the Barnes harpsichord also enhanced the dissonant chord clusters, bravura flourishes and intricate two-part writing of John McCabe’s The Greensleeves Ground, composed in 1966 for Igor Kipnis, but apparently never performed by him.

The harpsichord’s contemporary repertoire has grown steadily, and in the third decade of the 21st century, composers are continuing to find inspiration from the instrument and its players. Having a contemporary repertoire has indeed enabled the harpsichord to achieve a maturity in which it is heard and appreciated in a way that enhances its long history and heritage, of which the music on the CD is especially representative. © Andrew Mayes

Album credits

Leighton and Stevenson pieces recorded: Concert Hall, Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, 7th April 2021
Lipkin and McCabe pieces recorded: March 20th 2022 at Peter Barnes workshop, Rode, Frome.
Recording engineer and producer: Steve Plews
Digital editing and mastering: Phil Hardman
Harpsichord technician (Leighton and Stevenson): Alex Temple.
Harpsichord owned and tuned (Lipkin and McCabe) by Peter Barnes
Page turning and assistance: (Leighton and Stevenson) Ben Maloney.
Executive Producers: Steve Plews and Andrew Mayes
Booklet and packaging design: Steve Plews

Duncan Honeybourne

Duncan Honeybourne.
Duncan Honeybourne enjoys a diverse profile as a pianist and in music education. enjoys a diverse profile as a pianist and in music education. In recent years has developed a parallel career as a harpsichord, virginals and clavichord recitalist. Following his concerto debuts at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, and the National Concert Hall, Dublin, he made recital debuts in London, Paris, and at international festivals in Belgium and Switzerland. Commended by International Piano magazine for his “glittering performances”, he has toured extensively in the UK, Ireland and Europe as soloist and chamber musician, appearing at many major venues and leading festivals. He has broadcast for over 20 years on BBC Radio 3 and more than 20 radio networks worldwide, including French, Swiss and Austrian Radio, ABC (Australia) and Radio New Zealand. Duncan has premiered over 70 new piano works and his recordings reflect his long association with 20th and 21st century British piano music. He is a Tutor in Piano at the University of Southampton.

Duncan’s organ recitals in the UK, Belgium and Switzerland have included Brecon and Truro Cathedrals and Ieper (Ypres) Cathedral in Belgium. More recently he has given harpsichord and clavichord recitals in the UK and Switzerland, taking a great interest in the English keyboard music of the 16th and 17th centuries. He has also explored contributions to the repertoire by 20th and 21st century British composers and, in 2018, gave a recital of the complete clavichord works of Howells.