** 2021 Stock ** What do you get when Erik Satie meets Anton Webern for a cup of tea in England? These delightful miniatures of Howard Skempton might just be it. With their distinctly English vocabulary, witty turns, and spare yet memorable melodies, Surface Tension offers a survey of Skempton’s music in solo through quintet settings from the 1970s through the 90s. Born in Chester, England in 1947, Skempton moved to London to study with Cornelius Cardew in 1967. There, with Cardew, he co-founded the infamous Scratch Orchestra (whose members included Brian Eno as well as Rohan de Saram of the Arditti Quartet).
These composer prepared performances are by HCD Productions, a Frankfurt based ensemble formed as an off-shoot from the Ensemble Modern. HCD are champions of Skempton’s music, developing the recital recorded here as an evening length performance. To quote Skempton from his liner notes: “As the composer, I take my share of the credit for the individual pieces in this collection, but it is HCD who are responsible for the form (the composition)of the sequence. This is loosely symmetrical and manages to ensure both continuity and contrast.”The superb players of HCD are joined by the renowned British soprano Sarah Leonard (noted for her work with Michael Nyman including Prospero’s Books)and the composer himself on accordion. Among HCD’s credits is their recent CD of music by Paul Bowles on the Largo label.
This Mode CD follows the release of the critically acclaimed Well, Well Cornelius, a recital of Skempton’s piano music performed by his associate John Tilbury on Sony Classics. A very special disc of delightfully accessible small-scaled works by one of Britain’s leading composers. HCD Productions are currently working on a disc of music by Walter Zimmermann for Mode.