Francis POTT (b.1957)
Sonata for Viola and Piano, Tooryn Vannin (The Towers of Man) (2013) [30:03]
Einzige Tage, Nine settings of poems by Anna Akhmatova and Boris Pasternak (2010) [43:03]
Yuko Inoue (viola), Francis Pott (piano)
Alla Kravchuk (soprano), Simon Phillips (piano)
rec. 2014, Auditorium, Anniversary Hall, St Catherine’s School, Bramley, Surrey

When it comes to the music of Francis Pott, I must admit to not knowing that much. What I do know tends to be religious in nature: the wonderful, and mammoth, organ work Christus (SIGCD062), his much lauded oratorio The Cloud of Unknowing (SIGCD105), and a few anthems. I have enjoyed hearing all of these. So it was with eager anticipation that I received this new disc, setting down as it does two purely secular works. I was not disappointed, with both offering different kinds of listening pleasure.

The Viola Sonata Tooryn Vannin, is instantly rewarding. It was inspired by Pott’s visit to the Isle of Man Festival in 2009, where his Cello Sonata was being performed. It is a deeply romantic work, one which places Pott firmly in the pantheon of the great British chamber music composers of the twentieth century. Jeremy Summerly, in his booklet notes to Pott’s Amore langueo (CDA67575), points to his music having “... more in common with the music of Arnold Bax and E.J. Moeran than with Vaughan Williams” and although he was discussing a choral work I think the same can be said here too. It is a strong, persuasive and deeply rhythmic tonal work which anyone interested in the music of Bax and those that followed him will enjoy. Each movement has a lot to offer the listener, but for me it is the final movement, the only one without a subtitle, which is the real winner. Inspired by a walk in the south-west of the isle, to the point opposite the Calf of Man, it brings together themes from the first two movements. These are developed along with new material into a wonderful final outpouring.

When it came to Einzige Tage, I found that this collection of nine songs, sung in German translations from the original Russian, did not make the instant impact the Sonata had. However, after listening to it again I came to enjoy the work just as much, if not more than, the Viola Sonata. The collection is well balanced with romantic settings juxtaposed with more modern-sounding songs. Just listen to Juli, the longest of all the songs in the cycle. Although this has a progressive opening, by the time it gets to its vocalise sections which are backed up by some deft piano writing, you are hooked. The work takes its title from the eighth song in the cycle, a setting of Boris Pasternak’s Unique Days, which is a highlight of the set. It is a song which would fit well into the great Romantic Lied tradition. Give this cycle time and you will come to love it; I know I have.

The performances are excellent, Yuko Inoue had long wished that Pott would compose a sonata for her, and she is beautifully toned in this recording with the composer playing the piano. Einzige Tage was commissioned by the wife of Simon Phillips as a fiftieth birthday present for her husband and for one of his usual collaborators, Alla Kravchuk, to perform in concert. Here they give it a peerless performance. The recorded sound is excellent for both works and the booklet notes by the composer himself are similarly fine.

Stuart Sillitoe

Track details

Milner’s Tower: Con moto appassionato [9:12]
Corrin’s Lament: Andante poco lento [12:18]
Vivo, animato [8:33]

Einzige Tage
Wellen [3:47]
Die Musik [3:30]
Hochzeit [6:03]
Wind [3:26]
Abschied [3:27]
Juli [8:09]
König Grauauge [5:55]
Einzige Tage [3:56]
Finsterer Traum [4:50]

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