British composer David Jennings was born in Sheffield in 1972. He studied at Manchester University with John Casken and is currently a member of the Lakeland Composer’s Group. He is busy building his list of compositions, which already range from piano miniatures to large orchestral works. Jennings strives to achieve a balance between traditional and 21st-century approaches to composition. His work shows the influences of Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Bridge, Gershwin, and medieval music as well as the works of his contemporaries. He writes serious, well-structured music and the interesting pieces on this disc are moving and emotionally satisfying. He knows how to use dissonance and he sometimes puts the piano in a percussive, rhythmic mode, but he can also bring us the lyrical picture of young love in a spring garden. Jennings mentions that the influences on his music are both musical and non-musical. He has a great interest in graphic art and a love of the landscape of Northern England. Both of them influence his compositions.
His Piano Sonata begins with a delightful percussive melody riding on a fairly traditional structure. He tries to make his music timeless and, to a great extent, it is. The second movement has a quasi-impressionistic feel but you still know that this entire piece was written in our time. It’s original and invites the listener to sample it more than once. James Wiltshire is a fabulous pianist whose runs are as smooth as creamery butter. He has a wide dynamic range and a full palette of tonal and emotional color, too. Jennings has found an excellent interpreter for his piano works. While his sonatinas mix traditional melody with the modern infrastructure, they also combine musical maturity with a natural exuberance. The melodies in the Second Sonatina might make good art songs because they are long and memorable. The Third Sonatina shows the influence of Gershwin.
The mood of the music on the disc changes with the opening drama of the Prelude and Fugue. This piece proves that Jennings can be as ancient as Bach and as modern as tomorrow.
The Three Lyrical Pieces entitled “Evening Twilight,” “Cavatina,” and “Waltz” provide a bit of respite after the mathematical structure of the fugue. The first is pastoral; the second might be sung by a tenor in praise of the lady with whom he will dance the final Waltz. The Miniature Suite begins with a fast and furious piece that shows off the virtuosity of Wiltshire, the pianist. The Largo Tranquillo is an amusing description of the motions of a sleepy cat. In the Invention and the Fugue, Jennings re-creates some aspects of baroque style in updated form. The Romance tells of a pleasant walk along Lancaster Canal. All the sections of the Honest Moon Suite refer to 19th-century English watercolor paintings. Like the soft and subtle colorations of the art works, these lyrical compositions also describe the gothic mood of The Haunted Castle and the stark appearance ofHarlech Castle. In the latter piece Jennings uses fragments that remind us of the style of 13th-century music. The finale is a lyrical interpretation of Fennel Robson’s picture of Innisfallen Lake, a scene noted for its tranquility. The sound on this disc is excellent and it contains music that most certainly deserves a wider hearing.
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