Kenneth Hesketh: Horae (Pro Clara)

review hesketh x1 cong

Pianist Clare Hammond performs music by British composer Kenneth Hesketh, the title track written for her.

It comprises 17 short pieces in four works, the complete work Notte Oscura clocking in at seven minutes, the shortest track just under three.

It’s just piano; the shortness of the tracks and the fact that it wanders in and out of your consciousness made us think of the Goldberg Variations, but it’s nothing like those, the piano and the silences aside.

The latter is elegant and beautiful, this is not; it’s more dense and less settled. It’s never jarring but it doesn’t flow in the way of Goldberg. It’s more a murmuration of starlings rapidly veering this way and that than a gently babbling brook. While it’s fairly dense and complex — we suspect piano players will listen intently — it manages to sound simple, because there space.

It opens with Through Magic Casements, inspired by Keats’ famous Ode To A Nightingale, but Hesketh contrasts the tuneful singing of the eponymous bird with his own inner conflict.

Horae (Pro Clara) is 12 miniatures with no titles, but Hammond’s sleeve notes say the performance directions are evocative: “As fleet as the tiniest humming bird”, “Like a splash and suspension of water droplets” or “Impishly sardonic”. Another has a quote from Corinthians: “For now we see through a glass, darkly”.

Notte Oscura is a piano transcription of an opera, and reflects on the cold of St Petersburg in winter, which is very cold indeed. Japanese Miniatures is fragments of an earlier work in which wanderers and water sprites feature.

It’s a quiet and delicate album that tolerates little external noise, which masks the subtlety of the playing. It’s one to listen to alone at night, perhaps, its technicality making it not necessarily a relaxing listen, just an atmospheric one.

Out now on BIS:  BIS2193

About jerobear

Weekly newspaper editor in Cheshire, England. I blog my editorials and the CDs I write about. I play drums, drink coffee, play music, meditate. I hate filling in forms.

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