De Profundis Clamavi is a two-disc recording of English piano music, contrasting three dramatic sonatas with a vibrant selection of shorter pieces ranging from the sublimely poetic to the darkly rhapsodic. Frank Bridge began writing his grandiose Piano Sonata in 1921, in the wake of the First World War, and it is suffused with a mood of desolation and torment. Contemporary composer Richard Pantcheff’s own sonata was completed in 2017 and evokes a similarly intense emotional landscape; hence the quotation from Psalm 130 that gives the album its name (‘Out of the deep have I called unto Thee, O Lord’). Also here making its first recorded appearance, the 1938 Sonata by Christopher Edmunds bubbles over with vivid pianistic colours, melting tenderness and and irresistible romantic warmth.
The three sonatas are complemented and contextualised by Parry’s delicious Shulbrede Tunes – affectionate portraits of the composer’s family and their Sussex home – plus the first recordings of two stunning romantic showpieces by a composer better known for his vocal writing, Cecil Armstrong Gibbs. Three unpublished – and previously unrecorded – gems by Edgar Bainton add further distinctiveness to the disc.
Contemporary Piano Soundbites is a collection of solo piano miniatures composed during the 2020 coronavirus lockdown and premiered on video during the months of April, May and June. The project, which ranked in the top 10% of Just Giving fundraisers nationally during the month of April 2020, has already raised well over £2000 for the Help Musicians UK Coronavirus Hardship Fund, supporting musician colleagues struggling in the current situation. The disc, recorded in July 2020 under conditions of social distancing, presents a representative selection from the online series. It celebrates the diversity of styles embraced by a broad cross section of professional composers working today, and it was an invigorating experience to record an entire disc of pieces which hadn’t existed less than four months earlier! Especially stimulating and exciting is the juxtaposition of several leading senior composers with some of their most gifted younger colleagues. Several young composers make their first appearances on disc.
My objective, as I stated in my invitation to composers, was fourfold: to imaginatively harness the zeitgeist of our present situation: to bring comfort and enjoyment to a large ready-made audience stuck at home, to aid musicians badly affected by the “cultural lockdown” and to add to the contemporary repertoire, creating an artistic keepsake of this extraordinary phase in our history.
My long term plan is that, as well as helping our colleagues at a time of need, the collection will provide a snapshot of reflections and musings by some of the finest and most distinctive composers of our time at a unique and unprecedented moment in our history. I hope the disc will make for a refreshing, enriching, stimulating and quirky listening experience too!"
Synopsis by Duncan Honeybourne
“A dazzling explosion of creativity.”
—Tom Service, BBC Radio 3 New Music Show, 13/03/21
“... remarkable set of pieces ... the recital seems to me perfect in every way. Duncan Honeybourne is a great champion for all these composers.”
—John France, MusicWeb International
“The standard of the compositions and their interest and accessibility are all high ... The recording is natural and warm ... The booklet essay gives excellent background information on each of the composers and on their pieces.”
—Gary Higginson, MusicWeb International
“With an unerring sense of colour and narrative, Duncan Honeybourne finds the individual character of each miniature. His thought-provoking, wide-ranging programme is thoroughly recommended.”
Prima Facie’s latest release features the English pianist Duncan Honeybourne in the first commercial recording of the work of composer Geoff Cummings-Knight (b.1947), whose contribution to British musical life in recent decades has been self-effacing but of consistent and remarkable quality. His solo piano music is highly distinctive, impassioned and lyrical, and its appearance on disc long overdue.
Cummings-Knight was born in Colwyn Bay and grew up in Yorkshire. He studied at Goldsmiths College, the Birmingham School of Music and Leeds University, gaining BMus and MA degrees. His numerous compositions include a cantata The Turning Year, two symphonies, chamber works, choral settings, stage works and a symphonic prelude The Infancy of Hercules. In 1986 Geoff was a finalist in the Barclaycard Composer of the Year competition and in 1998 his work was featured in the TV series Heartland FM.
His works have been widely performed and broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and his Piano Concerto, premiered in 1985 by Philip Challis and the Worthing Symphony Orchestra underJan Cervenka, received a further acclaimed performance in Birmingham’s Adrian Boult Hall.
The piano works on this disc range from two of the early, vividly descriptive Russian Tableaux - composed in 1970 and broadcast by Philip Challis on BBC Radio 3 in 1984 to the magisterial and richly-contoured Sonata in C sharp major, premiered by Duncan Honeybourne in 2011.
Honeybourne writes that Cummings-Knight’s "creative road is a rewarding one and his substantial catalogue of piano music central to any consideration of it. This is a journey on which I am honoured and delighted to accompany the inquisitive and enterprising listener."
“... splendid CD ... the recording by Prima Facie is superb ... Honeybourne [...] is clearly a splendid advocate and champion of this piano music ... For anyone who enjoys approachable, romantically tinged music ... this is a perfect investment”
—John France, MusicWeb International
“This CD will appeal to all those who enjoy complex deeply expressive piano music ... pianistic callisthenics, big chords, virtuoso runs and ripples remind one of Rachmaninoff. All these are certainly there, and with his seasoned technical abilities, Duncan Honeybourne is the man to deliver these with stylistic élan.”
Prima Facie’s release of recent piano music by Richard Francis celebrates the craftsmanship, wit and eclecticism of this popular Shropshire composer, winner of the 2001 Gregynog International Composition Award. The disc comprises Francis’s complete solo piano output from the years 2006-2015, all played by its dedicatee, Duncan Honeybourne, whose previous Prima Facie discs — of piano music of Sadie Harrison and John Joubert — have met with critical acclaim.
Duncan Honeybourne plays here the ‘Piano Sonata no.2 (Irish Memories)’, with its references to Irish folk melodies, premiered in Christ Church Cathedral, Waterford, in 2011. The first movement evokes a Donegal storm whilst the second is a set of variations on the much-loved hymn tune Slane. The ‘Grand Concert Variations’ are inventive and virtuosic, while the set of 10 ‘More Characteristic Pieces’ must surely contain something for everyone, ranging from the touching ‘Evensong’ to the rumbustious ‘Seaside Jaunt’!
This attractive and varied disc was recorded on a Bosendorfer piano in the Ty Cerdd studio at Cardiff Bay, in April 2019.
Synopsis by Prima Facie Records
“[the Piano Sonata second movement] is excitingly virtuosic, its fast chiming chords and dizzying runs performed with great élan by the splendid solo pianist, Duncan Honeybourne.”
—Alan Cooper, British Music Society
“The sound quality is beyond reproach... I thoroughly enjoyed this recital. Duncan Honeybourne is an unmistakably powerful advocate of Richard Francis’s piano music. All the music here is approachable and easily enjoyed.”
“The spring of 2017 offered me a heartwarming opportunity to revisit the complete piano music of a composer who has been highly significant in my musical life. John Joubert celebrated his 90th birthday in March, an occasion I marked by presenting the cycle as an evening recital at the Birmingham and Midland Institute. This creative artist of trenchant expressive power, finely tuned eclecticism, visionary intensity and refined craftsmanship has, over some six decades, enriched the solo piano repertoire with a sequence of personal and dramatic essays: each of them with a distinctive individuality, yet charting a compelling and logical narrative when presented as a whole. The three piano sonatas constitute in themselves a major cycle, the triptych charting an instructive journey through different seasons of his career and musical mindset. Most striking for me as an omnipresent juxtaposition throughout the cycle is the irresistible coalescence of the violent and the consoling, the heart-stoppingly lyrical and the menacingly unsettling, the sumptuously tender and the bracingly aggressive. Rarely, if ever, have the percussive and the song-like attributes of the piano fused more organically, or to more dramatic — and beautiful — effect. The jagged rhythms of the irresistible early Dance Suite and the warm lines of the operatic Lyric Fantasy complement the cycle of sonatas very effectively.”
Synopsis by Duncan Honeybourne
“(Joubert’s complete piano music) is featured here in glittering performances from Duncan Honeybourne… Listening to Honeybourne’s accounts, recorded last year in Turner Sims Concert Hall, Southampton, it is not hard to hear why Joubert was drawn to his playing. The performances are fluent and powerful, alive to the full range of Joubert’s mercurial invention, whether in the jagged rhythms of the Bartokian Dance Suite (1958) and concentrated Sonata in one movement (1957), or the more melodic lines of the Lyric Fantasy. The two later sonatas require even greater virtuosity and these accounts are a match for their rivals.”
— International Piano, July 2019
“The expressive keyboard technique of pianist Duncan Honeybourne shows just what a great musical ally he was to composer, the British South African, John Joubert…Honeybourne worked extensively with Joubert and…Joubert dedicated his Third Sonata to Honeybourne. This noteworthy recording of Joubert’s complete piano works, crisply engineered in Southampton’s Turner Sims Concert Hall, can therefore boast an impeccable provenance. It is a perfect illustration of Joubert’s dramatic writing…These are bold piano works that have earned their place in classical music history.”
As a complement to EM Records’ disc of piano music by Andrew Downes, this release features the composer’s music for violin and viola, including World Premiere recordings of the Violin Sonata, the Viola Sonata, and the work from which the disc takes its title, ‘The God Marduk’. Downes was a student of Herbert Howells and his work is characterised by influences absorbed from a wide variety of musical cultures, including Indian ragas, African drum-rhythms and Carolingian plainchant, these being fused to form a language that is rich in colour and vivid in the immediacy of its portrayals. This recording is a dramatic representation of Downes’s art, ranging from the gentle lyricism of the second movement of the Violin Sonata, through the playful whimsy and implacable sternness of ‘The God Marduk’, to the devotional stillness and joyful assurance of the ‘Sacred Mass’ for solo violin.
Synopsis by Em Records
“This is a wonderful disc, presenting four works by Andrew Downes, each with some memorable sections and a strong sense of the twentieth century English musical tradition. The playing of Rupert Marshall-Luck and Duncan Honeybourne is excellent throughout and makes a strong case for the music... This lovely disc will be enjoyed greatly by all followers of English music.”
The Wanderer is EM Records’ first triple-disc set: a celebration of the violin-and-piano works of one of Britain’s most important composers, C. Hubert H. Parry.
Parry is not popularly known as a composer of chamber music; yet his contributions to the genre span his entire career. Of particular historical-musical interest are his works for violin and piano, from the early ‘Freundschaftslieder’ – amongst the first works Parry completed in adult life – to the two Suites, published in 1907. These show a wide range of aspects of Parry’s multifaceted character: the generously-spirited young man, acknowledging his debt to Brahms and Schumann in the Sonata in D minor; the warm-hearted family man shown in the ‘Twelve Pieces for Violin and Piano’, which are dedicated to his wife and his two daughters; and the musical experimenter that is seen in the ‘Fantasie-Sonate in einem Satz’, in which Parry, inspired by the Piano Concerto of Xaver Scharwenka, combines four tautly-unified movements in a single, 14-minute work. The recording also features a number of intriguing and characterful miniatures which were discovered among the composer’s manuscripts in the Bodelian Library, Oxford.
The recording is dedicated to the memory of Parry’s great-granddaughter, The Hon. Laura Ponsonby, whose knowledge and enthusiasm were instrumental in bringing the project to fruition.
Synopsis by Em Records
“EM Records issues one of its most important releases to date, the complete works for violin and piano by Hubert Parry... Marshall-Luck (endows) violin lines with real flexibility and Honeybourne (ensures) some densely chorded piano parts never feel overbearing. Not all this music was unrecorded… but the present accounts set new standards for these works overall. Recommended.”
— Richard Whitehouse, Arcana.FM
“Combining rigour and sensitivity, the interpreters serve this fine music perfectly.”
— Michel Fleury, Classica magazine (France), June 2019
“immensely rewarding….confirms the virtuosity of both Parry’s invention and the duo’s technique…Honeybourne’s eloquence in the Retrospective communicates surprisingly weighty emotions…Honeybourne’s rhythmic definition and accentuation are admirable…the performers communicate real joy and commitment.”
These piano pieces trace a trajectory from the Edwardian poetry of Leo Livens to the overdubbing of Peter Reynolds by way of a century of evocative, descriptive and exciting miniatures. Reflecting pastoral, light and experimental traditions, these previously unrecorded works offer rich variety from neglected composers.
— Recommended CD on ORF Austrian Radio, November 2019
“These are easy-listening, fairly restrained character works from 1915-2015. Reynolds’s work skillfully incorporates recorded bird calls, glass marbles, and drumsticks. Power’s miniatures are simple and direct, with well-balanced and straightforward playing. Constance Warren’s brief “Idyll” is thorny and chromatic. Honeybourne’s playing is always polished and refined.”
— American Record Guide, March 2019
“This disc is full of these very short tracks, beautifully selected for their contribution to the program and historical relevance…There is a remarkable degree of originality throughout all these works that makes this disc an engaging listen from start to finish.”
—The Whole Note (Canada), January 2019
Return of the Nightingales: Music for Solo Piano by Sadie Harrison
‘Return of the Nightingales’ is a celebration of four pianists with whom Sadie has collaborated extensively over the past decade — Duncan Honeybourne, Philippa Harrison, Ian Pace and Renée Reznek. As the majority of the pieces were premiered by these pianists, the disc is a showcase not just of Sadie’s music but also of each performer — from Duncan Honeybourne’s sumptuously expressive renditions of Lunae (2012) and Shadows (2013) to the hyper-virtuosity of Ian Pace in the title work; from the quirky vivacity of Philippa Harrison in Four Jazz Portraits (2014) to Renée Reznek’s highly coloured interpretation of Par-feshani-ye ’eshq (2013-14). As such, the disc offers a unique insight into a range of contemporary piano performances, an unusual contribution where the emphasis is as much on the players as the composer herself.
Synopsis by Prima Facie Records
“A disc that offers much of interest for inquiring listeners and players alike. Not that those latter will find it easy to match the technical finesse and interpretative insight of the pianists featured here.”
“Duncan Honeybourne has the lion’s share... with fine accounts of the two large sets, Lunae (2012) and Shadows (2013).”
— Musical Opinion
“Honeybourne sensitively and sensuously illuminates the tender, intimate lyricism”
“Medieval chant, Dowland, Debussy and Messiaen are just some of the influences on the gentle Lunae, superbly performed by Duncan Honeybourne, who also captures the gnomic essences of Shadows, Harrison’s tribute to composer William Baines...An important disc.” (***** 5 stars)
— International Piano
Daybreak in the Fields
Released August 2017, available from Em Records
Duncan Honeybourne has been associated for many years with the piano music of Andrew Downes, distinguished English composer and former Head of Composition at the Birmingham School of Music/Birmingham Conservatoire. On this new set of two discs taking their name from one of Downes’ piano preludes, Duncan plays the complete solo piano music of Andrew Downes, much of it dedicated to and premiered by him. To complete the discs, he is joined by pianist Katharine Lam for the Downes Sonata for Two Pianos.
The counties on the borders between England and Wales — Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire — are rich in spiritual resonance, powerful historical imagery and a tangible sense of tranquility and apartness, which continues to appeal strongly to composers, writers and artists. This CD presents works for piano by four composers associated with this borderland.
Edward Elgar was born just outside Worcester; the Concert Allegro, his only substantial piece for solo piano, was written whilst living at Malvern Wells. Ivor Gurney was strongly attached to his native Gloucestershire, and his Five Western Watercolours paint sound portraits of favourite landscapes in that county. Walford Davies was born in Oswestry, Shropshire; his Theme and Variations, written whilst a student at the Royal College of Music, was rediscovered by Duncan Honeybourne, who gave its first known public performance in 2015. Richard Francis was born in Herefordshire and now lives and works in Shropshire: the works on this CD were given their première performances by Duncan Honeybourne.
“It’s fun to hear from Walford Davies in his student days, flamboyantly building up his 1890 Theme and Variations from a docile, hymn-like melody. Honeybourne treats his enterprising repertoire with respect and affection.”
— BBC Music Magazine, 4 stars **** for performance and recording
“Honeybourne has given a wonderful, inspired account of all these pieces... a remarkable CD.”
Luke Whitlock’s music is firmly rooted in traditional harmonies and tonal bases, lyrical and expressive. This is the first album devoted to his work and features acclaimed pianist Duncan Honeybourne in solo works ranging from Whitlock’s survey of 18th century Suite form, to two picture-pieces and a lively, witty and sparkling waltz. A very open, airy flute sonata and three impressionist works for wind trio make this a fine introduction to music of wide appeal.
“Duncan Honeybourne is peerless in his handling of the (solo piano) music”
— MusicWeb International
“Honeybourne’s performance is simply beautiful, even in its most powerful and haunting moments”
— Fanfare magazine (USA)
“Luke Whitlock’s debut CD, Flowing Waters, is a collection of beautifully composed pieces. Being a pianist myself, I’m particularly fond of the expressive and varied piano music on the CD, which is superbly performed by Duncan Honeybourne.”
— Debbie Wiseman MBE (Film & Television Composer)
“I have listened ‘right-through’ and again in shorter sections and found lots of lovely moods. My own immediate favourite - and I believe for many other listeners - is without doubt Evening Prayer. It is also beautifully played!”
The use of the sobriquet ‘King of Instruments’ for the organ is well-known; and the violin was the instrument of the royal courts of Europe from the seventeenth century until after the Enlightenment. The chiasmus offered by the juxtaposition of these two instruments was thus irresistible as the title of a disc that features works for violin and organ or piano by three organist-composers: Herbert Sumsion, Harold Darke and Richard Pantcheff.
Composed early in their respective careers, the sonatas for violin and piano by Sumsion (organist of Gloucester Cathedral from 1928 until 1967) and Darke (best-known for his setting of the carol ‘In the bleak Midwinter’) are full of zestful life and with a rich harmonic language that lends them depth and warmth. They are complemented on this recording by Richard Pantcheff’s Sonata for Violin and Organ, composed in 2010, and which casts the two instruments as partners in a dialogue that is full of lyricism, passion and energy.
Recorded in December 2014 in the Chapel of Jesus College, Cambridge, this disc highlights the Hudlestone Organ, built by the Swiss firm of Orgelbau Kuhn and installed in 2007.
“Both soloists play with nuanced feeling, and Duncan Honeybourne is an articulate advocate both for the music and for the expressive Kuhn organ of Jesus College, Cambridge. Ravishing accounts, too, of violin and piano sonatas by Sumsion and Darke.”
— Choir and Organ
Schubert and Schumann
Played by Duncan Honeybourne
Released 2015, available from Forbury Records
This disc presents two of the greatest masterworks of nineteeth century piano literature, staples of Duncan’s recital programming for many years. Both the Schubert B Flat Sonata and the Schumann Fantasy are works which convey profound landscapes of emotional intensity and raw human experience, distilled through the exceptional sensitivity and insight borne of creative genius. Both composers died relatively young and both suffered shattering setbacks and traumas. The works recorded here are among their most personal and self-revealing.
The disc was recorded at the magnificent Lion Ballroom, Leomister’s striking and beautifully restored arts centre.
To order, please email the Director of Forbury Records, Alan Crumpler: firstname.lastname@example.org
Duncan Honeybourne’s disc for EM Records explores the piano music of a forgotten romantic composer-pianist, the Englishman Greville Cooke. Cooke combined a professorship in composition at the Royal Academy of Music with parallel careers as a poet and Anglican priest, rising to become a canon of Peterborough Cathedral and a regular broadcaster in both musical and spiritual roles. EMR CD022 presents Cooke’s superbly evocative, richly passionate music – bearing wonderful titles such as Cormorant Crag, Whispering Willows, Sundown and Reef’s End – with miniatures by Holst and Vaughan Williams to create a disc of English romantic piano music of vibrant colour and wide-ranging expressive power.
“The sympathetic pianist in this recording, Duncan Honeybourne… Cooke’s style, most affecting in lyrical mood, breathes something of that luxuriant Romanticism with which we are now much more familiar in the piano music of York Bowen… Honeybourne, with his delicate chemistry of touch and arm weight, persuasively coaxes out Cooke’s personal sense of poetry and gentle humour.”
“Instantly claims an eminent place in the annals of British recorded music. The performances catch both the storm and crash of these pieces, their willowy poetry, whimsical wit and flickering dappled fantasy. Cooke is fortunate in having found such a champion”
“This CD is superbly presented in every way. The liner-notes, written by Duncan Honeybourne are excellent, informative and interesting. The standard of playing is of the highest order: the recording is outstanding. Even the title of the CD – ‘A Forgotten Romantic’ – lends enchantment to this project.”
This disc from EM Records, performed by Duncan Honeybourne, explores the piano music of a forgotten romantic composer-pianist, Archy Rosenthal. This larger-than-life character wrote for his instrument with telling individuality, melting tenderness and searing intensity. Dublin-born Rosenthal was a virtuoso pianist of international fame, a pupil of Leschetizky and Godowsky and a close friend of Grieg. The land of his birth never lost its enchantment for this immensely charismatic and imaginative man, and our new release complements Rosenthal’s barnstorming Variations on Hush-a-bye Baby and his reflective Irish Pastels with beguiling Hibernian musings by Stanford and Bax. All the works by Rosenthal receive here their World Première recordings.
International Piano – “A programme that enchants, disarms and whets the appetite for more in equal measure... Duncan Honeybourne’s playing is astonishingly affectionate, but never saccharine, something that rescues pieces like Rosenthal’s Variations on a Nursery Rhyme from the salon. Stanford’s Ballade in G minor presents some of the most serious of intent music on the disc, distinctly Lisztian in breadth and gesture. Honeybourne plays it with suave confidence.”
E.J. Moeran: The Complete Solo Piano Music performed by Duncan Honeybourne (piano) presents Moeran’s complete, deeply atmospheric piano music alongside works by his English and Irish contemporaries. Included on this disc are première recordings of works by Aloys Fleischmann and Ronald Swaffield, while music by Howells, Vaughan Williams, Baines and Pitfield complete a set of discs that open musical vistas of the rugged mountains and grandeur of wild Ireland and the verdant pastorality of England’s lush hills.
2 CD set released 1st February 2013 by EM Records. Available to order online at www.em-records.com
“Hard to imagine better performances”
— BBC Music Magazine (**** excellent rating),
“A set not to be missed by all lovers of English music”
“Honeybourne is in a class of his own, and his account of the Theme and Variations (Moeran’s most substantial piano work) is unsurpassed on disc. I would rate this new two CD set as the best complete recording of Moeran’s piano output.”