Wednesday, 18 February 2009

William Blezard: Second Sonatina for Piano

The Second Sonatina (1970s) was written for Donald Swann – one half of Flanders and Swann. Of course he was a composer in his own right and is perhaps best remembered today for the Hippopotamus Song. But let it not be forgotten that he composed many musicals and operas and contributions to Hoffnung’s Musical Festivals. As an aside, the one work that deserves to be recorded and made available is the Song Cycle ‘A Collection of Songs’ on poems by John Betjeman. Blezard knew Swann well in his capacity as a musical director in fact he had met Swann through his wife-to-be, Joan Kemp Potter. And it was through him that Blezard was introduced to Joyce Grenfell with whom he was to have a successful working relationship as her accompanists. So it is fitting that this jazz-influenced work should be dedicated to his friend and colleague.

The Second Sonatina opens with a lively first movement. This not jazz pastiche – but is actually a rather good fusion of styles. Nods in the direction of Billy Mayerl and Bartok are plentiful. The second movement is marked lirico and is actually extremely lyrical. It has an attractive melody supported by conventional but sometimes slightly acerbic chords. This is very much in the world of the cocktail lounge although perhaps the taste would be a little too bitter for the Ritz? There are touches of Ireland in some of the figuration and a little syncopation is never far away: it is a very beautiful movement. The ‘vigoroso’ is a nod in the direction of Billy Mayerl and is almost pure ‘novelty’ piano writing. In fact Blezard had to use conventional jazz notation in the score to get his point across.
For the life of me I cannot see why this Sonatina is not in the repertoire. It would be a hit on classic FM and even Radio 3 listeners would be impressed at the subtle use of styles and moods. As an encore the last movement would be very popular.
William Blezard’s Second Sonatina can be heard on Eric Parkin’s recording on the Priory Label

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