Margaret Fingerhut

Kenneth Leighton: Piano Works

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While the choral music of Kenneth Leighton has received steady coverage over the years, his keyboard music is a bit harder to find, either in recital or on CD. A three-disc set of the complete works for solo piano was released on Delphian in 2004, but since then Chandos has become the main source for Leighton's piano music, chiefly through recordings by the champion of unjustly neglected piano music, Margaret Fingerhut. This 2010 release is a significant offering, for it presents not only the profoundly serious Sonata, Op. 64 (1971-1972), and the poetic Preludes (1988), but it offers two premiere recordings of the suite Winter Scenes (1953) and the Sonata No. 3, Op. 27 (1954), early works that considerably round out the composer's portrait. Apparently Leighton was not rigidly doctrinaire about the composition techniques he used, so while his music is tonally centered as often as it is twelve-tone, and even when it seems the music is intensely chromatic and even atonal, it has an approachability that much modernist piano music lacks. Leighton's soundworld seems directly connected to the keyboard's sonorities and what aurally works, rather than to any abstract theory of pitch classes, so every gesture is effective and carefully planned; even the thickest dissonances are given sufficient time to sound and become intelligible parts of the music's textures. Fingerhut's playing is intensely focused and energetic, and her assured attacks and precise rhythms indicate not only a close study of the music but also sincere devotion to promoting Leighton's work. Fans of modern keyboard music will find this disc highly rewarding.

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