Gramophone

The Divine Art release is a stimulating collection, splendidly presented by a first-class piano duo. It provides an excellent survey of four-handed and solo 20th-century British piano music and strays into the 21st with Anthony Hedges’ solo Explorations. This work gives the disc its title and is admirably played by Caroline Clemmow. It is ingeniously based on a single compact motif; but I was even more impressed by the five Aphorisms (of 1990) which are very pianistic, with a memorable Lento fourth movement.

The solo Sonata, played by Goldstone, also has a magnetic slow movement, and a brilliantly inventive Rondo finale, recalling material from the first two movements to make a relaxed interlude before the vigorous coda. The exotic Japanese Suite of Holst and, just as enticing, the Chinese Folk Songs of Ronald Stevenson offer welcome contrast – especially the catchy ‘Song of the Crab Fisherman’.

The collection is dominated by Kenneth Leighton’s Prelude, Hymn and Toccata, an immensely commanding antiphonal two-piano work. The Hymn is a heavily submerged and disguised “Abide with Me”, fascinatingly developed. It ends peacefully, to be followed by a hugely arresting closing Toccata, ending with a characteristic Presto precipitato, played here with exhilarating abandon, ending abruptly and leaving the listener gasping. Excellent recording throughout.

—Ivan March