|1||from the Book of Longing
|6||For Eileen, after rain
|8||A Haunted Heart||5’.56″|
Hugh Tinney – piano
Catherine Leonard – violin
|1||from the Book of Longing
|6||For Eileen, after rain
|8||A Haunted Heart||5’.56″|
The works on this album span ten years of my life, a period during which my ideas about and reasons for composing changed considerably.
BIG (1991) is one of the earliest pieces I still recognise, written originally for myself to perform and obviously betraying the post-Minimalist influence so favoured for a time by a number of composers of my generation. The opening phrase provides the impetus for the subsequent four sections, each one being an expansion of some idea or motif found there. This stylistic approach was continued in Drive (1992) although within a less rigid formal scheme, its lyricism almost bordering on the overtly romantic once or twice. I have always liked to assign certain roles or territories to instruments in my pieces, so in Drive the violin is always the linear/melodic element, and the piano always the vertical/harmonic.
from the Book of Longing (1996) was the first piece I wrote for Catherine Leonard (the other two violin works on this disc are arrangements of works for soprano saxophone [Drive] and alto flute [Spilliaert’s Beach]) and her playing encouraged me to write a work that is part showpiece and part mini-tone poem. Inspired by the Biblical account of the Temptation of Christ in the desert by Satan, I chose to write a series of tangos (framed by two processionals) in order to achieve a certain stylistic distance from the subject, while keeping an element of sensuality to the music – the core of all good temptation. This was one of the first works I wrote after completing my organ concerto Rich Harbour (1994-5), where I explored the concept of instrumental virtuosity for the first time in any depth. The marriage of instrumental technique and musicality has been a preoccupation ever since, even when, as with For Eileen, after rain (1995 – a private commission that eventually took its impetus from the Fernando Pessoa poem Raining), the request was for a more easily performed piece. A Haunted Heart from late 1996 is a more personal work evincing a new development in my approach to melodic and harmonic writing, now more fluid and flexible, a quality mirrored in the rhythmic writing.
After a break of three years I returned to concerto writing in 1998 with a series of works for cello, piano and saxophone, and the genre still exerts a strong fascination for me. Lim is essentially the solo part from my concerto for piano and strings from that year, Limena, written for Hugh Tinney. As that part was written complete before the orchestration was added, I always felt it should be able to stand alone. The flow and flexibility found in A Haunted Heart is developed here through use of a more clearly defined tripartite structure and large-scale thinking. The generally hushed tone perhaps emphasises the requiem-like feel of the central section in particular, the Omagh bomb atrocity having taken place during its writing. Balancing the careful structuring is a Joyceian stream-of-consciousness notion that shows itself in the micro-structure, from phrase to phrase. This concerto was followed soon after by my first violin concerto Messenger (also written for Catherine Leonard), which in turn was succeeded by my fifth quartet …wander, darkling, and all three works illustrate that part of my musical personality drawn to exploring dark and troubling aspects of life. A distant echo of this kind of writing is found in Spilliaert’s Beach (1999), a little soundscape I wrote having seen Leon Spilliaert’s painting from 1908, Moonlit Beach. Taking the simplest of elements and keeping them in a state of barely-developed flux, the piece attempts to capture the monochrome character of the painting, which has a single bright spot.
The novel compositional approach I took in Verschwindend (2001) makes it a rather different kind of piece altogether. Based on a short (nine-bar) improvisation I played and recorded, the piece reworks that phrase again and again in a process not unlike developing variation. The rhythmic fluidity of Lim is here replaced by a motoric, almost jazzy element that is particularly demanding in its execution, perhaps unsurprisingly as it was commissioned as a test piece for a piano competition.
Ian Wilson was born in Belfast in 1964 and obtained the first PhD in composition from the University of Ulster, which, in 1993, commissioned his orchestral work Rise in celebration of the tenth anniversary of its foundation. His music has been performed and broadcast on six continents by artists such as the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the Ulster, Belgrade Philharmonic and Norwegian Radio Orchestras, the London Mozart Players and the Irish Chamber Orchestra, the Vanbrugh, Vogler and Endellion Quartets, the Psappha, Gemini and Concorde ensembles, Gerard McChrystal and Harry Sparnaay. Works have been performed at many festivals including the BBC Proms, ISCM World Music Days, the Frankfurt Book Fair, the Cheltenham, Spitalfields and Bath Festivals and the Ultima Festival in Oslo, where Running, Thinking, Finding for orchestra received the composition prize in 1991.
He has written over sixty pieces including a chamber opera, seven concertos, orchestral pieces, six string quartets, three piano trios and many other chamber and vocal works.
In 1992 Ian Wilson was awarded the Macaulay Fellowship administered by the Arts Council of Ireland, and in 1998 he was elected to Aosdána, Ireland’s state-sponsored body of creative artists. Between 2000 and 2003 he was AHRB Research Fellow in Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Ulster.
His music is published by Universal Edition (London) Ltd.
Born in Dublin in 1958, Hugh Tinney first came to international recognition by winning first prize in two international competitions, the 1983 Pozzoli in Italy and the 1984 Paloma O’Shea in Spain, and since then he has performed in more than thirty countries throughout the world.
A prize-winner in the 1987 Leeds Piano Competition, he has performed with most of the main London orchestras. Conductors he has worked with include Simon Rattle, Morman del Mar, Yan Pascal Tortelier and Jerzy Maksymiuk. He has performed cycles of the complete Mozart and Beethoven concertos in the 1990s and is currently completing the cycle of 32 Beethoven sonatas in Dublin, but his repertoire interests stretch from Couperin to contemporary.
In addition to recording for Riverrun, Hugh has recorded for Decca, Meridian, Naxos, Marco Polo and Black Box, and since 2000 has been Artistic Director of Music in Great Irish Houses. In 2003, he took part as principal pianist in the TV documentary “PIANO – The King of Instruments”
Catherine Leonard recently completed her studies with Herman Krebbers in Amsterdam and is quickly developing a distinguished international career. Awards include the Heineken Violin and bow, the Ulster Bank Bursary, the Ford “Ka” Classical Musician of the Year, first prize winner in the Friends of the Concertgebouw “Concours” in the Netherlands, several Arts Council Bursaries and a Fulbright Scholarship for studies in America.
Described by the Irish Times as “the leading violinist of the younger generation in Ireland, a musician whose playing is typically both thoughtful and touching …”
She has performed extensively as a soloist in Europe, including the National Concert Hall in Dublin, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Wigmore Hall and the Purcell Room in London and Finlandia Hall in Helsinki where she was partnered by Hugh Tinney. Further afield she has played both as soloist and chamber musician in the USA, Canada and Australia.
Some recent highlights include several performances with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, including the world premiere of “Messenger”, a concerto written for her by Ian Wilson and commissioned by RTE; a series of BBC Radio 3 recitals, partnered by Charles Owen and a marathon performance of all ten Beethoven sonatas in Bantry House, West Cork with Julius Drake. She made her Wigmore Hall debut with Charles Owen at the end of 2003.
In 2004 she makes her Dublin Helix and Bath Festival debuts with Charles Owen and will participate in the City of London Chamber Music Festival with cellist Claudio Bohorquez and pianist Alex Slobdyanik. Catherine will also premiere “Eigenschatten”, a major solo work commissioned from Ian Wilson through the Arts Council of Ireland.
Wilson – from the Book of Longing
* * * *
Familiar for his String Quartets and Proms commission Man O’War, Irish composer Ian Wilson has been a name to watch almost from the moment he finished his studies. Now pianist Hugh Tinney and violinist Catherine Leonard present a fascinating retrospective of Wilson’s changing voice: from the taut minimalism of BIG (1991) and Drive (1992) to the verdant lyricism of A Haunted Heart (1998) – written in the wake of the Omagh bombing – and the tender pointillism of Spilliaert’s Beach (1999). The tension between cool clarity and an almost Ravelian sensuality links the works, played with admirable transparency by Leonard and Tinney.
May 23rd 2004, The Independent. Reviewed by Anna Picard.
from the Book of Longing ****
This survey of eight works by Ian Wilson ranges from the often chunky piano solo BIG of 1991 up to Verschwindend of 2001, a more nervy and snatchy type of piano piece that sounds as if the composer is intentionally constraining the message trying to make its way out. Only one of the three violin and piano works – the tango-infused from the Book of Longing – is originally for that combination of instruments (though the impressionistic, obsessive Spilliaert’s Beach, originally with alto flute, has transferred extremely well), and the longest work, Lim, is the piano part of Limena, minus the orchestra. In spite of the varied surface finishes, what stands out on this CD is the underlying romanticism and also the consistent sensitivity and polish of both performers.
August 2004, Irish Times. Reviewed by Michael Dervan
from the Book of Longing
“The new disc of music from Belfast-born composer Ian Wilson, From the Book of Longing, features the impressive duo of Catherine Leonard on violin and Hugh Tinney on piano. Wilson has obviously found a kindred spirit and a sympathetic interpreter with this violinist, so much so that he has arranged two pieces – Drive was originally for soprano saxophone and Spilliaert’s Beach for alto flute – to add to the music written especially for her.
Perhaps the composer enjoys Leonard’s romantic leanings – the opening of the title track, From the Book of Longing, shares an obvious affinity with the sound world of Cesar Franck’s Violin Sonata.
But Hugh Tinney is an equal partner on this disc and provides a mini retrospective of Wilson’s piano music including the major piece Lim, extracted from the composer’s piano concerto of 1998.
Despite the occasional post-minimalist rhythmic excursion, it’s Wilson’s innate lyricism which is dominant throughout the pieces here. With over an hour of music, this is a major issue, and covers 10 years of composition from the 1991 BIG, to the 2001 Verschwindend.”
15th May 2004, Belfast Telegraph
“Recently released on a new label, Riverrun Records, Ian Wilson’s CD entitled from the Book of Longing includes music for violin solo, piano solo, and the two combined. Hugh Tinney and Catherine Leonard do a beautiful job and are sensitively recorded. This and the remarkable stylistic variety, as it ranges over ten years of this composer’s working life, makes for a CD that may throw up questions, but never flags. Although some of the pieces have been rearranged form versions for other instruments, such as saxophone and alto flute, they all translate well to their new setting. The music, while all just within the contemporary art-music spectrum, varies in flavour across modal, neo-romantic, post-minimal, jazz-tinged and a more complex, tougher style. Even there one can discern a haunted sense of consonance ruling over dissonance, and a relaxed pace of musical development. The ten years covered are 1991 to 2001, and it is nice to be able to say that the deeper, more satisfying works are all from 1996 to 2001. Four pieces that stand out are Verschwindend, Lim, A Haunted Heart and Spilliaert’s Beach.”
Sept-Oct 2004, The Journal of Music in Ireland. Reviewed by John McLachlan