Graham Fitkin: Hard Fairy (Aract. Fervent. Piano Piece 91. Piano Piece very early 92. Piano Piece early 92. Hard Fairy. Blue. Piano Piece mid 92. Piano Piece late 92. Piano Piece very late 92. Piano Piece 93. Fract). Graham Fitkin (piano), Eleanor Alberga (piano), John Lenehan (piano), John Harle (soprano saxophone). Argo 444 112-2 (1994), barcode 028944411225
Other front cover:
Recorded 8-9 February 1994, 10 May 1994 (Hard Fairy) at Walthamstow Assembly Hall, London. All pieces played by Graham Fitkin. Eleanor Alberga second pianist in Aract and Fract for piano duo, John Lenehan second piano and John Harle saxophone in Hard Fairy
An appeal on the wider, Jazz-pop oriented public – but not on the seasoned listener of contemporary-classical
Originally posted on Amazon, 19 September 2010
This disc is for those who like harmonically undemanding and predictable repetitive music, alternately dynamically boisterous and meditatively dreamy and plangent. I personally don’t, not really. It is not the repetition I mind (like everybody, I love Ravel’s Bolero, and seriously there is some repetitive music that I have liked), certainly not the boisterious dynamism (the dreamy-plangent I find more facile, especially when it is milked out as in the seven short piano pieces Fitkin wrote from 91 to 93). But why write music that is harmonically so trite? Evidently it might have an appeal on the wider, jazz-pop oriented public, but for the listener accustomed to (and appreciative of) all kinds of contemporary classical music, it doesn’t seem to offer much nourishment.
And when Fitkin becomes a little more harmonically daring, he composes quasi Debussy with a slow-moving Satie austerity, as in the three short and dreamy Piano Piece 91, Piano Piece very early 92 and Piano Piece early 92 (listen carefully, or you won’t even notice you’ve gone from one to the next – Fitkin has pushed the concept of repetitive music a step further: not only does every composition repeat, every composition is repeated – no, I’m just kidding, in a small temporary fit of exasperation).
The longest pieces here are the boisterous “Fervent” for two pianos (its ending sounds close to a Jazz improvisation), “Hard Fairy” for Sax and piano Duo (merry, playful, upbeat, charming and inconsequential). “Blue” (a kind of gloomy, repetitive Bydlo – Moussorgsky’s depiction of a heavily trudging oxen-cart in his Pictures at an exhibition; the composer himself describes it as “ponderous”) and the upbeat, Gershwinesque and dance-like “Fract”. None is longer than 15 minutes. Fitkin’s repetitions certainly aren’t long-winded.
I find the music of Simeon Ten Holt more colorful, with more catchy melodies and with a mesmerizing effect due to the sheer length of its repetitions.
The program was reissued in 2002 on a generous 2-CD set from Decca’s series “The British Music Collection”, 473 434-2, barcode 028947343424, with the contents of two other Argo-Fitkin CDs, 436 100-2 barcode 028943610025 with Log, Loud and Line by Piano Circus, and 440 216-2 barcode 028944021622 with Hook, Mesh, Stub and Cud by various performers – yep, Fitkin enjoys those punching, one-syllable titles. See my Fitkin introductory page for more reviews of his music.