Homages Book 2
For Solo Piano
(2009-15) 13 minutes
(Bar(tik)tok, Blurry Bagatelle, Song Without Words, Stolen Rhythm)
Homages to Bartok, Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Haydn
Blurry Bagatelle was premiered by Tim Horton at St. Andrew's Church on 25th August at the 2017 Presteigne Festival.
Stolen Rhythm was premiered by Matthew Schellhorn at Robinson College, Cambridge in 2012
Song Without Words was commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and premiered by Andrew Zolinsky on the radio in 2009
Bar(tik)tok was premiered by Thalia Myers on 5th November 2016 at the Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music.
Blurry Bagatelle is inspired by Beethoven's Op. 126 No. 5 (Quasi allegretto). In my homage I simply took the motives and gestures that appealed to me from Beethoven's Bagatelle and composed a little piece with the memory of them fresh in my mind. The dialogue between the two hands in Beethoven's opening is mimicked in the beginning of my piece, but the melodic range is squashed into a much tighter space, and the blurriness of the title is created with the use of chords in which all notes are sustained by the pedal, but only some notes sustained by the fingers (revealing simpler harmonies when the pedal is released, as if focusing a camera lens). The middle section, in a homage to George in his 60th year, sets the letters of his name as the melody.
Song Without Words was commissioned by BBC Radio 3 in 2009 for the bicentenary of Mendelssohn's birth and premiered by Andrew Zolinsky on BBC Radio 3. My piece is very closely modeled on Mendelssohn's Op.102 no.2: I spent many hours playing through all of them and the musical lines and phrasing of this Song really struck me. I tried to emulate Mendelssohn's musical line, which seems to stretch in one phrase over the entire piece, in my own piece.
I was delighted to be asked to write this piece for Matthew Schellhorn, particularly as in 2009 I'd written a short piano piece for Mendelssohn's anniversary also. When I am asked to write pieces inspired by certain composers, it always makes me realise how little of their music I actually really know, so I promptly embarked on a Haydn Piano Sonata-playing marathon, which I enjoyed immensely. I wanted to write something fast and jolly, since Mendelssohn's tribute had been slow and (hopefully) rather beautiful. I became particularly obsessed with the third movement of Haydn's Sonata in E flat major (Hoboken XVI:45): the way it continually moves forward with a boundless energy and wit still thrills me. It seemed to me that it was the rhythmic content of the movement that gave it these properties, so I decided to shamelessly steal the rhythm hook line and sinker, and simply put my notes to it. Save for a few 11/8 bars (where I've removed one semiquaver from the usual 3/4 bar), the rhythmic content of this piece is entirely Haydn's, running from beginning to end exactly as his sonata movement does. I then played with various transmutations of the notes B, A, D, D, G (generating lots of different sets of pitches by inverting and transposing them etc.) to get the harmonic and melodic content.
© Cheryl Frances-Hoad, 2015
Bar(tik)tok (2013) A rustic snapshot - dealing in Balkan rhythms and modes, finely detailed articulation (every slur, dot, tenuto and accent essential to the imagery), terraced dynamics, and vibrant contrasts of pesante and leggierotouch. What the speech rhythms of this music might be, if any, go unsaid, but rests and breaths are keenly placed, neither too short nor too long. The re-transition, deftly turned, slips in at the Golden Section point.
© Ates Orga
Reviews (of Homages Book 1 and 2 combined)
"Delicious bagatelle-character pieces, very emblematic of the composer's æsthetic as a whole."
"Frances-Hoad’s implicit trust in the expressive power of her melodic invention and harmonic thinking is paramount. That may seem to be an old-fashioned approach, but nothing in Frances-Hoad’s music ever sounds secondhand. Its ability to speak clearly and directly in an utterly fresh way is demonstrated just as powerfully in the other pieces here, too – Homages, a set of seven piano miniatures..." Andrew Clements, The Guardian
"The set of seven Homages features Frances-Hoad’s other main instrument, the piano. Mostly written in 2013-15, two of them – including the title-track Stolen Rhythm (commemorating the bicentenary of Haydn’s death) – date from 2009. These enchanting miniature fantasias (Grieg, Janáček, Schubert, Ravel, Mendelssohn and Bartók in Balkan mode are the other composers honoured) are beautifully played by Ivana Gavrić and, as with Katharsis, showcase Frances-Hoad’s range and appeal as a creator." Guy Rickards, Gramophone Magazine
"The Homages for piano attempt to harness stylistic ‘fingerprints’ of seven particular composers in what amount to short, individual character pieces. I will not identify them in this review as I suspect It might be great fun for listeners to try and spot the sources before reading the notes – armed with the knowledge beforehand, I have to say that Frances-Hoad manages to distil the essence of each with rare skill and great charm, resorting neither to parody nor pastiche at any point. While the pieces seemingly weren’t intended to form a suite they do work well together and are winningly played by the composer’s long-time collaborator Ivana Gavrić."
Richard Hanlon, MusicWeb International
"Homages is a suite of seven movements for piano, each one trying on an hommage to a different composer. So we have memories of Grieg's Lyric Pieces, Janacek's In the mists, a Schubert piano sonata, Ravel's piano music, Mendelssohn's songs without words, Haydn piano sonatas, and Bartokian rhythms. The pieces were written over a period of time, and premiered for different pianists. In each the original composer's signature can be detected, but Cheryl Frances-Hoad's personality is to the fore too, creating a sequence of delightful character pieces which can be enjoyed without worrying who was inspired by what." Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill
Selected performance history (post-premiere)
8th September 2019 - Tony Caramia at Eastman School of Music, USA (a selection from Books 1 & 2: Contemplation, In the Dew, Stolen Rhythm and Bar(tik)tok)
20th November 2018 - Elaine Chew at The Octagon, Queen Mary University, London, UK (Stolen Rhythm)
18th July 2018 - Tony Caramia at Hatch Hall, Eastman School of Music, USA (Song Without Words)
11th June 2018 - Elaine Chew at St. Bartholomew-the-great Church, London, UK (Stolen Rhythm)
25th May 2018 - Tim Horton at the Jacqueline du Pre Building, Oxford, UK (Blurry Bagatelle)
11 May 2018 - Elaine Chew at Stanford CCRMA Music and Brain Symposium, USA (Stolen Rhythm)
13th October 2017 - Tim Horton at The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham, UK (Blurry Bagatelle)
8th October 2017 - Tim Horton at the Great Hall, Swansea University, UK (Blurry Bagatelle)
17th September 2017 - Frances Wilson at St. John's Smith Square, London, UK (Song Without Words)
30th January 2017 - Elaine Chew at The Attenborough Centre of Creative Arts, Sussex, UK (Stolen Rhythm)
9th June 2016 – Frances Wilson in Middlewich, Cheshire, UK (Song Without Words)
14th May 2016 - Frances Wilson at The North West Music Trust, Altrincham, UK (Song Without Words)
12th May 2016 - Elaine Chew at The San Francisco Center for New Music, USA (Stolen Rhythm)
29th April 2016 – Frances Wilson at The NPL Musical Society, Teddington, UK (Song Without Words)
18th June 2015 - Natalie Bleicher at King's College London, UK (Song Without Words)
16th March 2012 - Natalie Bleicher at Schott Music, London, UK (Stolen Rhythm)