FRANCES-HOAD Stolen Rhythm
The largest work on this third Champs Hill release devoted entirely to Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s music is Katharsis (2013), written for David Cohen – the nimble soloist here – and styled ‘concerto for cello and ensemble’, the ensemble being wind quintet and strings, the cello one of Frances-Hoad’s own instruments. Its six modest movements, several based on Baroque dance forms (Minuet, Sarabande and Gavotte reflecting the influence of Bach’s and Britten’s cello suites) play continuously but for one break midway. The set of seven Homages features Frances-Hoad’s other main instrument, the piano. Mostly written in 2013-15, two of them – including the title-track ‘Stolen Rhythm’ (commemorating the bicentenary of Haydn’s death) – date from 2009. These enchanting miniature fantasias (Grieg, Janáček, Schubert, Ravel, Mendelssohn and Bartók in Balkan mode are the other composers honoured) are beautifully played by Ivana Gavrić and, as with Katharsis, showcase Frances-Hoad’s range and appeal as a creator.
My personal favourite of the programme, however, is the centrepiece, Quark Dances (2013, inspired by a visit to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland), which doubles as the finale to the ballet The Strange Charm of Mother Nature. Its quirky vivacity stands in marked contrast to the transcendental piano trio The Forgiveness Machine (2011, a meditation on the slow movement of the Archduke Trio) or the concluding work, A Refusal to Mourn for oboe and strings, the earliest music here, a fantasy on Lutheran chorales written in 2000 but revised 15 years later. Exquisite performances throughout, and quite superb sound. Strongly recommended 21st-century music that should frighten no one but make them pause frequently for thought (not least through her beguilingly idiosyncratic titles).