Reviews of the Athene-Minerva CD of John Pickard’s Piano music

 

BBC Music Magazine, October 1998
PICKARD

A Starlit Dome: Piano Sonata
MATHIAS
Piano Sonatas Nos 1 & 2
Raymond Clarke (piano)
Athene ATH CD 15 66:01 mins.

 

“At 35, John Pickard is making a name for himself – unusually – in the traditional forms of symphony and string quartet, combining the propulsive power of Robert Simpson (an early mentor) with a quite distinct sensibility. His bravura Piano Sonata, in two large, dynamic movements, was written at the age of 23 in a spirit of protest against its time and place – Britain in the Thatcher years – but its palpable anger takes the form of passionate constructive power, not agitprop. The furious toccata-like conclusion is quite an experience, especially played as well as here. The recent A Starlit Dome, a kind of ‘cosmic nocturne’, active rather than passive in its contemplation of the heavens, hardly suggests any relaxation, but is more serenely lyrical in effect.

Raymond Clarke, for whom the Sonata was composed, plays both these taxing and profoundly thought pieces with dedication and virtuosic flair, and couples them with the two admirable sonatas of Pickard’s teacher, William Mathias. If No.1 (1963) is occasionally too eclectic to be truly personal (the opening gesture is surely influenced by Tippett’s Second Sonata of the previous year), the single-movement No. 2 (1969) is much more creative : in its reworking of Lisztian models
and Messiaen-like harmonies. First-rate recording: an excellent disc of contemporary British piano music.”

Calum MacDonald

 

Classic CD, September 1998
MATHIAS
Piano Sonatas Nos 1 & 2
PICKARD

A Starlit Dome: Piano Sonata
Raymond Clarke (piano)
Minerva Athene ATH CD 15 66:01 DDD

“…John Pickard (b.1963) was Mathias’s pupil and shows something of his teacher’s penchant for rich textures, well-wrought structures and emotional accessibility. But he is his own man, also, and the two pieces on this disc show hims to be a musical thinker of both power and passion.

Both composers’ music is briliiantly played by Raymond Clarke, a pianist who combines emotional commitment to the music with a prodigious technique. The whole disc is enthralling. It is music-making of the first order of magnificent new music, that I would recommend all other serious music-lovers to investigate.”

Roderick Swanston

 

Gramophone, September 1998
Mathias Piano Sonatas – No. I, Op. 23; No. 2, Op.46.
Pickard A Starlit Dome. Piano Sonata.

Raymond Clarke (pf)..
Athene ATHCD15 (66 minutes: DDD).

“Mathias’s Tippettian sonatas, the thorny No. 2 in particular, make rewarding listening. John Pickard’s A Starlit Dome is an “astronomical nocturne” of real imaginative resource: his sonata, whether in the smouldering intensity of Part I’s closing variations, or Part 2’s sustained emotional energy, is the equal of any large-scale piano work this last quarter-century. Clarke’s playing combines passion and control to potent effect.”

Richard Whitehouse