Saturday, 5 July 2008

Richard Stoker: A Poet's Notebook Op.19 (1969)

A Poet's Notebook Op.19 (1969) combines two of Richard Stoker's interests. And perhaps a third by implication. For not only does he compose music and write poetry, but he also exhibits paintings. So what we have here could be entitled 'An Artist's Sketchbook.' For that is what these six pieces actually are -thumbnail sketches. One is reminded perhaps of Prokofiev's Visions Fugitives - not so much in quality but in design. They are pieces that are so short as to be untenable except when played in one sitting or perhaps as thoughts for future works; maybe even defining the parameters for a developing pianistic style.

The listener cannot help noticing that there is a definite Berkeley-esque and French feel to this work. Although Benjamin Britten is also never far from these pages as well. There are six very short sketches in this work; Ballad, Epigram, Elegy, Lampoon, Parody, and Ode. The first sketch has a lovely tune set against a chordal accompaniment. The second is like a little toccata - far too short! The Elegy has a poignant theme - that is again far too short to get one's teeth into. The Lampoon is a little study making use of triplets. Britten is Parody, intended in the fifth movement, in fact the composer tell me it nods to The Salley Gardens! And finally the Ode is spare, compressed and perhaps lacking in movement. Again there is a touch of 'Winter Words' here I think.

What is perhaps most interesting is that they are in the gift of the competent amateur. However there are a number of difficulties lurking on these pages that will trip up the over-confident tyro.

Richard Stoker's A Poet's Notebook, along with lots of other great piano works, is on Priory 659

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