Transfiguration (PFCD200) Double CD £15.00
Piano music by Phillip Cooke
Duncan Honeybourne piano
Three Wistful Tunes in Modal Hues (2022)
1. I: Gently
2. II: Softly but with motion
3. III: Sustained but insistent
Three Sad Dances in Triple Time (2022)
4. I: Plaintive
5. II: Hazy and sustained
6. III: Softly
Songs of Morning and Night (2022)
7. I: Relaxed but yearning
8. II: Static/Softly
9. III: With growing energy
10. I: Like distant bells and half-heard songs
11. II: Softly but with energy
12. III: Gently and hypnotically
National Anthems (2022)
13. I: Poignant
14. II: Elegiac
15. III: Fragile
16. IV: Rueful
1. The Oak and The Ash
2. The Turtle Dove
3. Strawberry Fair
4. Brigg Fair
5. O Waly, Waly
6. Sheep Crook and Black Dog
7. Scarborough Fair
8. D’Ye Ken John Peel
9. The Lark in the Morn
10. The Man of the River
11. Green Grow the Rushes, Oh!
12. The Three Ravens
Theme and Transfigurations (2022)
14. First Transfiguration
15. Second Transfiguration
16. Third Transfiguration
17. Fourth Transfiguration
18. Final Transfiguration
19. Elegy (2003, arr. 2017)
"...performed radiantly by virtuoso pianist Duncan Honeybourne... The music in the initial four items of the first CD could seem outwardly simple, often gentle and beautifully transparent. However just listen, and you will be delighted by whole new worlds of complexity in rhythm, melodic line and counterpoint... That’s what makes Cooke’s piano music so special. He has his own personal style, and he owns it completely." Alan Cooper, British Music Society
"Recent piano works from contemporary composer Philip Cooke where he transforms the every day into something completely magical, 35 generally short movements, each a gem... Honeybourne seems completely in tune to the composer's idiom, and gives each one of these short studies his complete focus, creating a series of complex and engaging sound worlds that satisfies." Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill
‘Like Distant Bells and Half-Heard Songs’: Transfiguring a New Repertoire for Piano
During the dark days of the first national lockdown in 2020 I felt compositionally moribund, paralysed by the inertia of the confinement combined with regular missives about the super- creativity of composer colleagues via social media. Amidst this gloom and navel-gazing came the opportunity to write a short piano piece for pianist Duncan Honeybourne’s ‘Contemporary Piano Soundbites’ where he premiered a short new work every weekday for nearly two months, all via YouTube on his gradually disintegrating home piano (a metaphor for much of what was happening at the time). This was one of the few times I felt creative and useful during this difficult period, and I was very thankful for this opportunity. Later in the year, Duncan recorded my short work ‘The Turtle Dove’ along with many of the other soundbites for CD release, the reviews of which were extremely positive. One of the reviews referred to my piece as ‘A hushed and hauntingly effective deconstruction of the ballad of the same name’, another ‘But, alongside those names one meets Phillip Cooke with his beautiful transfiguration of the wonderful folksong The Turtle Dove.’ It was the latter of these two key terms that began the compositional process and aesthetic, and this short piece has now resulted in over eighty minutes of music all searching to transfigure and reimagine pre-existing material.
But what does ‘transfiguration’ mean? Or what do I take it to mean? Well, in its broadest sense it is a complete change of material from one form into a more beautiful or spiritual state – in many of these short pieces (or movements) I seeks to do something similar, taking the existing material and transfiguring it into something more ethereal and mystical. This act of composition has been present in my pieces for a long time, but it has only been recently that I have realised that it is a concept with deep resonances and significance in my work. The process began with the Folksongs, which I subtitled ‘studies in transfiguration’ as they not only suggest the beginning of a process, but also that the very nature of the change of form is often slight or ephemeral – the opening of a door to another mode of being or thinking. Later works carried on this process, with the final work (Theme and Transfigurations) taking a short extant piece of my own and transfiguring aspects of it into something entirely different.
Phillip Cooke November 2022
Recorded and produced by Steve Plews at Holy Trinity Church, Hereford
on 13/14 November 2022
Edited and mastered by Simon Cosby-Buttle
Prima Facie is grateful for financial assistance provided by The University of Aberdeen: School of Language, Literature, Music and Visual Culture, and friends and family of the composer.
He is strongly influenced by his native Lake District and by history. His main musical influences are found in continuing and reconciling a pastoral British tradition; he has written many articles on contemporary British
music. He co-edited a book of essays on Herbert Howells which was published by Boydell and Brewer in October 2013 and wrote the first major study on James MacMillan’s music that was published by the same publishers in June 2019. He is married with two children, lives in Aberdeenshire and supports Everton (for his sins...). From 2007 – 08 he was a Career Development Fellow at the Faculty of Music, Oxford University and a Junior Research Fellow (2007 – 10) at The Queen’s College, Oxford University. He was composition tutor at Eton College from 2011-12. In January 2013, he was appointed a Lecturer in Composition at Aberdeen University, becoming Deputy Head in 2015, Senior Lecturer in 2017 and was Head of Music from 2018-21. He became Professor of Composition in July 2022.
Philip Cooke was born in Cumbria in 1980, spending the first 18 years of his life in the Lake District. He studied composition in Durham and Manchester Universities and for a PhD with Anthony Powers at Cardiff University. His works have been performed in most of the leading cathedrals and churches in the UK and in many festivals in the country and further afield. Recent works have been performed by, amongst others, the BBC Singers and The Sixteen. His work has regularly been premiered and broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and has also recently been broadcast on BBC Radio 4, Classic FM and many European broadcasters. There are currently ten commercial recordings available featuring his music.
Duncan Honeybourne enjoys a diverse profile as a pianist and in music education. 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 and the Royal Academy of Music Junior Academy.