Andrew Matthews-Owen

Halo: Music for Piano

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British pianist Andrew Matthews-Owen has been noted mostly as an accompanist, but here he takes the spotlight with contemporary works united, for one thing, by his own enthusiasm for them. They also hold together well on their own merits. All three of them look back, in different ways and to different extents, toward Bartók. The Preludes of Joseph Phibbs (2016) were dedicated to Matthews-Owen and partly commissioned by him; they recall Bartók's more abstract mode. The real find here is the music of Bulgarian composer Dobrinka Tabakova, whose Modétudes (the title suggests "modal études") and entrancing programmatic Halo suggest Bartók's folkoric side; programmers devising concerts of contemporary Eastern European music, new music by women, or new music of nature will be very glad that Matthews-Owen has done the spadework and brought these pieces to light. On the Chequer'd Field Arrayed, by British composer Hannah Kendall, is an evocation of chess, and it effectively suggests the odd mixture of the medieval and the intellectual focus of that game. These are all effective contemporary works that show how advocacy from a skilled performer can bring wider audiences. This album appeared on British classical sales charts in late 2017.

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