Joseph Phibbs: Piano Preludes

Grant: RTF24
Detail: 6 piano preludes (20 minutes)
Performers: Andrew Matthews-Owen
Recording: Released on CD in 2017

This set of six short preludes was composed over a four year period, and is dedicated to the pianist for whom the work as a whole was written, Andrew Matthews-Owen. No.4 (Prelude for Andrew), the first to be composed, was commissioned by Laurie Slade in 2013 as a 60th birthday present for a fine amateur pianist and mutual friend, Andrew Gellert. On the basis of this work the Richard Thomas Foundation commissioned the remaining five preludes.    

The opening prelude is elegiac, written in memory of Andrew Matthews-Owen’s mother Stella, and blends simple and spare folk-like melodic material with faster, more impassioned figuration. No.2 (Fantasia for Colin) is dedicated to Colin Mathews, an inspirational composer who celebrated his 70th birthday in 2016, and a mentor to countless British composers over the years. The work is mercurial in spirit, conjuring up a fleeting, restless nocturnal world. No.3 focuses on a single hand gesture, and might be seen as a type of etude whose perpetual figuration (suggested earlier in No.1) is occasionally punctuated by short, accented notes.  The aforementioned No.4 is slow and meditative, cast in a simple ternary form whose central chordal section contrasts with simple bell-like melodic writing elsewhere.  No. 5 (Neon), is the most virtuosic of the set, evoking a fast and ever-shifting cityscape, while No.6, whose inward-looking mood harks back to the opening, acts almost as a coda or afterthought.  It is dedicated to the cherished memory of the great American composer Steven Stucky (1949-2016), a friend and former teacher. (JP)