Prima Facie

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Piano and Chamber Music by Jessie Reason (PFCD231)

Duncan Honeybourne - piano with Leora Cohen - violin
A Prima Facie Records Heritage recording
Available to pre-order

Region

Asterisks: Three Pieces for Piano (undated)
music suggested by an unfinished poem of Rupert Brooke

[1] I. Oh, lovers parted (3:41)
[2] II. Would God, would God you could be comforted... (4:27)
[3] III. Eyes that weep (4:32)

Three Poems for violin and piano (undated)
music based on three poems by Fiona Macleod

[4] I. I know a pale place, a haunted valley of defeated dreams (8:30)
[5] II. The Rainbow, rising with vast unbroken sweep (9:18)
[6] III. Dreams and visions run past laughing, with starry eyes (8:49)

Five Landscapes for solo piano (1917)

[7] I. The Road across the Hills (4:00)
[8] II. Forest Shades (3:52)
[9] III. Dewdrops (2:39)
[10] IV. The Solitary Place (3:13)
[11] V. The Sunlit Stream (3:34)

[12] Piano Sonata (1916) (16:14)

[13] Piece for Solo Piano (undated) (5:15)


Total Time 78:13

person swimming along river towards the sun

This album restores to the world the solo piano and chamber music of a long-forgotten, enigmatic figure. Jessy Lilian Reason, nee Wolton, born in London in 1878, was the daughter of a wealthy hop merchant. In 1902, in Cornwall, she married a gentleman of private means twenty years her senior, with whom she settled firstly in Devon and later in Tonbridge, Kent. In the late 1920s the couple made a final move, to Reading, where Jessy died in 1938.

In May 1992 the writer Alan Poulton discovered a large haul of manuscripts in a Leicester junk shop. He purchased the collection and took it home in two suitcases. In the 2020 Covid lockdown, now retired and with time on his hands, he set about exploring and cataloguing the manuscripts, and researching the life of the woman who had penned the 70 handwritten works in the early decades of the twentieth century.

Reason’s oeuvre ranges from a significant output of songs and piano pieces, through chamber music to full orchestral and choral compositions. The paperwork accompanying the collection reveals that Mrs Reason studied composition with the renowned composer and conductor Eugene Goossens, some fifteen years her junior. How much of Reason’s music was performed during her lifetime is unclear: all that has come to light as yet is a performance of a single song at London’s Wigmore Hall and a song cycle given at a minor concert in West London, all in the early 1920s.

This disc presents Reason’s complete solo piano output, together with a sequence of three Poems for violin and piano. All demonstrate her distinctive impressionistic style: richly romantic; passionately lyrical; densely chromatic; intensely perfumed. Reason, clearly, was a highly gifted woman, long forgotten, whose mysterious tale presents us with more questions than answers but whose music speaks to us across the decades with an irresistible fervour and sincerity.

Credits

Recorded at St Elizabeth’s Church, Ashley, Cheshire, 9th and 10th August 2023 on a Bösendorfer piano of 1922, contemporaneous with the music
Engineer: Steve Plews
Producers: Steve Plews and Duncan Honeybourne
Edited and mastered by: Simon Crosby Buttle (Tracks 1-3, 7-13) and Phil Hardman (Tracks 4-6)
Cover and Booklet Design: Simon Crosby Buttle
This recording was made with support from the Francis Routh Trust

Our “Heritage” brand is used for our releases of albums of unheard or unrecorded works by historical composers from the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. We believe our rich musical heritage should not run the risk of being lost and we will use our passion for discovering (or re-discovering) these works to help in this cause.

Duncan Honeybourne

Duncan Honeybourne sitting at a piano
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) and "great technical facility and unfailing imagination" (Musical Opinion), Duncan is best known for his interpretations of 20th and 21st century British piano music. Following concerto debuts at Symphony Hall, Birmingham and the National Concert Hall, Dublin, he made recital debuts in London, Dublin, Paris, and at international festivals in Belgium and Switzerland. His debut recital disc was described by Gramophone magazine as “not to be missed by all lovers of English music”, whilst BBC Music Magazine reported: “There are gorgeous things here. Hard to imagine better performances.” Honeybourne has toured extensively in the UK, Ireland and Europe as solo and lecture recitalist, concerto soloist and chamber musician, appearing at many major venues and leading festivals. His solo performances have been frequently broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and more than 20 networks worldwide. Premieres of over 70 solo works written for him have included John Joubert's Third Piano Sonata, John Casken's Tempus Plangendi and Cecilia McDowall's Notes from Abroad, plus the Andrew Downes Piano Concerto at Birmingham Town Hall. Duncan teaches piano and chamber music at the Royal Academy of Music Junior Academy, is a Lecturer in Piano at the University of Southampton and gives regular masterclasses and adjudications. He is Founder/Artistic Director of the Weymouth Lunchtime Chamber Concerts near his home in Dorset.

Leora Cohen

Leora Cohen in formal dress holding a violin
British-American violinist, Leora Cohen enjoys a diverse career performing as a recitalist, soloist and ensemble musician around the world. She holds a first-class degree from the University of Cambridge and two postgraduate Diplomas from the Royal College of Music. She currently performs regularly as soloist with the Albion Chamber Orchestra in London and as a recitalist across the UK with Paul Wingfield. Leora has played chamber music on BBC Radio 3, at Kings Place, at the Wigmore Hall and held an Instrumental Award for chamber music at Cambridge. Leora plays a Vincenzo Panormo violin on loan from the Harrison-Frank Family Foundation, she is supported by the Royal College of Music, Talent Unlimited, Help Musicians, the Countess of Munster Musical Trust, the Stephen Bell Trust, the Honourable Society of Knights of the Round Table and the MCSC/H.S. Barlow Charitable Trust.