Viner’s prize-winning ‘Herz an Herz’ and Saxton’s ‘For Teresa’ on Orchid Classics

The launch of William Howard’s new Orchid Classics CD, ‘Sixteen Contemporary Love Songs’, took place on May 8th at Leighton House Museum in London.  The event was a great success and featured Frederick Viner’s Herz an Herz, which was awarded first prize in the ‘Under 25’ category of the William Howard Love Song Competition in 2016, as well as Robert Saxton’s solo piano work For Teresa.

The album, which will be released on June 1st, marks the next step in Howard’s two year Love Songs project and explores the theme of love in romantic and contemporary piano music.  The renowned pianist performs sixteen world premieres of works for solo piano, including contributions by Judith Weir, Howard Skempton, Nico Muhly, Richard Reed Parry andElena Kats-Chernin.  The collection provides a unique insight into the modern composer’s response to the genre of the love song.

Viner writes: ‘Herz an Herz, as the title implies (heart to heart), is a love duet. Two distinct voices, characterised through their respective male and female vocal registers, negotiate a warm, heartfelt melody through a loosely strophic form. Initially the voices sing in turn, each section - or verse - led predominantly by one. Each time their lines entwine, virtuosic flourishes ascend the keyboard, interrupting to render them silent again. It is only after one particularly tumultuous episode that the true duet appears: out of the murky resonances of the lowest 'A' emerges the throbbing chords and impassioned vocal lines from Wagner's famous duet, O sink hernieder, Nacht der Liebe from the second act of Tristan und Isolde. The 'singers', now reconciled, come together for one final verse before a fleeting memory of the beginning gently ushers in the end of the piece.’

Saxton’s work For Teresa was commissioned by Tim Suter for his wife, Helen, as part of Howard’s Love Songs Project and was first performed privately by William Howard for her 60th birthday in February 2017.  The piece is based on the notes T E S (E flat) A of the Christian name of the composer’s wife, Teresa Cahill. The music works towards a quotation of the opening of Beethoven’s Bagatelle No. 25 in A minor, Für Elise (which also uses letters from the name Therese, H being B natural in German nomenclature), a piece which, it is now thought, was originally titled Für Therese and possibly composed for Theresa Malfatti, to whom Beethoven unsuccessfully proposed marriage in 1810, but recent musicology has suggested other possible dedicatees.

William Howard gave the public premiere of both works at Hoxton Hall, London on 26th April 2017.  He talks about this new album in an interview with Edward Webb, in Pianist magazine, saying: ‘What all the pieces have in common is that they display a very personal side of the composers who have contributed, and I hope the universal theme of love will tempt a wide audience to sample this collection’. 

Sixteen Contemporary Love Songs (Orchid Classics ORC 100083) is available to pre-order, from Presto Classical or Amazon.

(9 May 2018)

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