Reflections for Piano - Reviews
Reflections for Piano
Twelve Preludes by Stephen J. Wood
There is something beguiling about Stephen J. Wood's writing. The twelve Preludes mirroring, if in title alone, Tchaikovsky's Seasons, are named after each month of the year and provide an enticing, intriguing and attractive addition to the piano repertoire. Aimed, I sense, at the teenage pianist (or perhaps also the more sentimental adult) they are effectively a set of improvisations, each with their own mood and personality.
It's the harmonic language that makes these pieces stand out from the crowd; some luscious jazz harmonies mingle with a more chromatic and contemporary approach. They are rarely predictable yet have a natural and instinctive ebb and flow, often providing a rewarding canvas of sonority and repetition upon which to convey a performer's own personality, thoughts and ideas. If you want a strong taste of the contrasts in these pieces compare the bitter, chromatic and acerbic September with the entrancing warmth of the wistful waltz in May.
My favourites include the evocative January, its strong improvisatory approach and sumptuous harmonies suggesting contented evenings in front of a warm fire, and the beautiful yet frosty and melancholic February, enticing musically yet relatively straight-forward technically. I particularly enjoyed playing October, simple and effective in its cold, reflective mood which contrasts a high, haunting melody with warmer chordal sections amidst an ambiguous, changing time signature.
All the pieces respond to an instinctively musical approach and will engage the imagination of any performer who has a love of harmonic shifts and surprises, a natural sense of rubato and a good control of balance and voicing.
Sincerely felt and rewarding compositions such as these can't fail to motivate and inspire.
A.J.A. Williams M.Mus GRSM (Hons.) DipRAM LRAM
Head of Keyboard and Instrumental Music, Radley College, Concert Pianist and Writer.