Steven Kings | intensely pleasant music: 7 Airs & Fantasias and other piano music by John Pitts

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intensely pleasant music: 7 Airs & Fantasias and other piano music by John Pitts

by Steven Kings

A collection of beautiful new piano music - including the mesmerising Changes for twenty nifty fingers, the virtuosic Toccata, and seven intensely pleasant Airs & Fantasias.
Genre: Avant Garde: Modern Composition
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Changes (For Twenty Nifty Fingers)
3:03 $0.99
2. Toccata: Blue Frenzy
9:41 $0.99
3. Air 1: Gentle Interweaving
3:33 $0.99
4. Fantasia 1: Clockwork 5 4
3:23 $0.99
5. Air 2: After Satie
3:05 $0.99
6. Fantasia 2: On the Westminster Chimes
4:10 $0.99
7. Air 3: On An Anagram
4:16 $0.99
8. Fantasia 3: Parallel Octaves
5:17 $0.99
9. Air 4: Sarabande
3:48 $0.99
10. Fantasia 4: Wind Chimes
8:17 $0.99
11. Air 5: Calmly Contented
3:56 $0.99
12. Fantasia 5: Bells in 9 8
3:38 $0.99
13. Air 6: Modal Twist
4:11 $0.99
14. Fantasia 6: Half-second-hand
5:33 $0.99
15. Air 7: Cantabile Mist
5:55 $0.99
16. Fantasia 7: All in a Chord
5:54 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
INTERNATIONAL RECORD REVIEW " overall idiom of considerable charm... 'Intensely pleasant music'? Most certainly." ..... CROSS RHYTHMS 9/10 "this album is beautiful, moving and relaxing"......MUSICAL OPINION "a sensitive and intelligent creative personality".....THE INDEPENDENT "deftly impressive".....MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL "brilliantly exciting"..."a colossal musical project that deserves admiration"..."Stunning and seriously impressive"......NEW CLASSICS "beautifully played"
Piano music from award-winning British composer John Pitts.

CHANGES is a minimalistic counting duel for 20 nifty fingers. It starts with the skeleton of a short repeated phrase (in 14/8) which gradually fills out, and then moves through two enormously tricky sections in which the two pianists have overlapping bars of different lengths (14 and 15 quavers). The duet finally builds to a dramatic climax.

TOCCATA is a tour de force of driving energy, based on some wild jazz-infused harmony and a few simple cells of melodic material which are explored and developed over a 9-minute period: technically demanding, mentally strenuous, the music's energy is regulated until the final release in the last section, where all the thematic fragments converge, and uninterrupted momentum is achieved. Two passages call for the use of the middle "sostenuto" pedal, which sustains only selected notes and leaves all others dry.

The seven "intensely pleasant" AIRS & FANTASIAS for solo piano were written between 1992 and 2007. The airs are essentially melody-dominated, and the fantasias are pieces in free form with a minimalistic use of repeated and rotating patterns. The pieces are intended to be performed individually or in numbered pairs, or as a complete collection. The subtitles are largely programmatic or self-explanatory, other than Air 3 (On an anagram) which uses a melodic motif based on the letters of a name. The performance of Fantasia 2 on this disc uses optional piano preparations (a small plastic ruler secured loosely in place over middle C to the E above, another ruler wedged between 2 of the 3 F strings, and a bent metal ruler from the next C up over a further octave). A&Fs 6-7 inhabit a different harmonic world to the other pieces, using a collection of chord relationships called "Twisted Harmonies".

The surtitle - intensely pleasant music - comes from an International Record Review review of Dunelm Records CD DRD0238 Severnside Inaugural Recital, Peter Jacobs (piano): “Three Pieces - an Aire and two Fantasies by John Pitts are intensely pleasant music with a serene rhythmic sense and a sure harmonic ear.” Calum MacDonald, October 2005.

Also recorded on 21/08/08 was a piece for 30 nifty fingers: ARE YOU GOING? by John Pitts. It is a fast, frenetic, complex, polyphonic romp based on the folk-melody Scarborough Fair, pulled around in various time-warps. Daniella Acker joined Steven Kings and John Pitts at the Steinway, and an mp3 of ipm08a is available initially as a digital download - see

STEVEN KINGS received his musical training at the King's School in Worcester, St John's College Cambridge and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, studying the piano with Phyllis Palmer and Terence Beckles. He has performed around the country as a soloist, accompanist and chamber musician, beginning in the 1980s when he was a founder-member of the New Chamber Players in London. In recent years he has formed a piano duo partnership with Christopher Northam. Over the past few years his solo repertoire has included sonatas by Beethoven, Berg, and Scriabin, as well as music by Brahms, Chopin, Debussy, Gershwin, Janacek, Ligeti, Liszt, Messiaen, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, Ravel, Scarlatti, Stravinsky and Webern. He has appeared as the piano soloist in Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto, Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue and Lambert's Rio Grande, and in November 2006 was the soloist in Beethoven's Choral Fantasia with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra at Bristol's Colston Hall. Steven lives in Bristol where he is in constant demand as an accompanist to choirs, vocal soloists, and instrumentalists. He is currently the accompanist and assistant chorus master to the Bristol Choral Society and the BBC National Chorus of Wales. Since 2005 he has been Conductor of the Thornbury Choral Society, and has conducted the Bristol Choral Society in performances at home and abroad.

Steven is also an active and successful composer. In 1985 he won the Young Composers' Competition at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival with Snapshots for flute, saxophone, 'cello, bass and percussion. His red land spring was a prize winner in the Tong International Piano Duet Competition in 2002 and received performances in London and Tokyo. His output includes a number of piano works and several choral pieces. His haiku mass, for choir and brass, was nominated for a British Composer Award in 2003, and Songs of Mary and Simeon (a setting of the Canticles) was performed during the 2005 Three Choirs Festival in Worcester.

JOHN PITTS has music degrees from Bristol and Manchester Universities, studying composition under Adrian Beaumont, Geoff Poole, John Casken and John Pickard, also receiving tuition from Raymond Warren and Robert Saxton. In 2003 John won the Philharmonia Orchestra Martin Musical Scholarship Fund Composition Prize, his Piano Quartet being performed by the Fidelio Quartet in the final stage of the competition at the Royal Festival Hall. Typhus and Nuts & Bolts, two of his chamber pieces, have been shortlisted by the Society for the Promotion of New Music. He writes music for Christian worship, with two hymns on Naxos CDs recorded by his brother Antony Pitts and TONUS PEREGRINUS, including one in Faber's The Naxos Book of Carols book. In 2006 Choir & Organ magazine commissioned I will raise him up at the last day for their new music series. John has also written music for four plays and two short operatic works - Crossed Wires (Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival 1997), and 3 Sliced Mice (commissioned by Five Brothers Pasta Sauces). John has conducted four Bristol Savoy Operatic Society productions, arranging Pirates of Penzance, Gondoliers and Iolanthe for small band. He is one of the founding members of the Severnside Composers Alliance, and has had four pieces released on CDs on the Dunelm label. One reviewer wrote "This is lovely music to listen to and shows a deep absorption of earlier styles but with a large degree of originality added for good measure." Another wrote "I would have liked to hear more of this music." This CD is the result.

Enormous thanks go to The Bliss Trust/PRS Foundation, Jonathan Scott and the University of Bristol Music Department, Nick Flower and Antony Pitts for their advice and technical help, Helen Kings for her silent and timely page-turning, Professor Daniella Acker for her considerable counting skills, and my wife Vicky for her tremendous support.



to write a review


7 Airs & Fantasias and other piano music es una muestra de prodigio y perfección al piano. John Pitts compone dieciséis obras de gran interés y belleza. Con la colaboración de otro gran pianista, Steven Kings, John ejecuta dos piezas de un portentoso nerviosismo y nos regala catorce temas compuestos entre los años 1992 y 2007 que acarician los sentidos. Realmente un magnífico repertorio desbordante de calidad, belleza y de sumo interés.

La primera obra que nos presenta el artista es "Changes (For Twenty Nifty Fingers)", que junto al segundo track de este álbum llenan más de doce minutos de enérgicos toques, al parecer improvisados, recordando a las melodías de los maestros Jarrett o Mertens en algunos instantes. Para esta primera pieza, el asombro está garantizado, realmente hay veinte dedos dando forma a una melodía frenética pero increíble, puro virtuosismo!. Me encanta!.

"Toccata: Blue Frenzy" es la segunda pieza enardecida del CD, además de las más extensa, casi 10 minutos de incesante y bella improvisación. Es fascinante poder imaginar el rápido movimiento de las manos del pianista recorriendo todas las escalas del piano una y otra vez. Wow!.

A partir de "Air 1: Gentle Interweaving" el álbum cobra un sentimiento más delicado, dulce. En este caso, la música se nota levemente triste, pero con una apasionada melodía que enaltece la lamentación.

"Fantasia 1: Clockwork 5/4" es otra de mis preferidas. De reiterativa y oscura melodía, pero grandiosa técnicamente, esta elaborada composición muestra el permanente pasar del tiempo, constante, de inevitable parada. Qué gran tema!.

"Air 2: After Satie" deja ver el vivo minimalismo que el Maestro Satie mostraba en cada una de sus obras. Una mezcla de fragilidad y lindeza componen cada nota que acaricia el artista en esta tierna pieza.

Un toque de cuerdas de piano abren el tema "Fantasia 2: On the Westminster Chimes". Mágica, enérgica y sorprendente, el piano reproduce la conocida melodía que el reloj de la famosa torre londinense hacer sonar en las horas puntas. Nuevamente, otra obra magistral en la técnica y bellísima en su composición!.

"Air 3: On An Anagram" es estupenda. La música perfecta para acompañar a un tierno y romántico baile, un tema íntimo, profundo y muy conmovedor.

"Fantasia 3: Parallel Octaves". Aunque posee gran encanto, la música es un permanente toque de notas altas mientras la mano derecha reproduce una discontinua melodía, muy monótona en ocasiones, provocando la desatención del oyente.

Una reservada y lenta danza es "Air 4: Sarabande". Dibujada por apenadas notas, esta composición se va tornando en algunos momentos valerosa, volviendo a su estado de profunda preocupación.

Con "Fantasia 4: Wind Chimes" es como si pudiésemos oír la voz del viento. Semejándose a pequeñas campanillas movidas por una suave brisa, "Fantasia 4: Wind Chimes" reproduce una música sin melodía definida, reproduciendo el tintineo que harían las pequeñas campanas al ser tocadas por el viento, un tintineo que se acelera con un marcado ritmo. Me gusta!.

Después de la agitación del tema anterior, "Air 5: Calmly Contented" nos aporta una armonía y una tranquilidad exquisitas. Con suavidad, se van marcando algunos acordes mientras la diestra reproduce una melodía quebradiza y llena de ternura.

"Fantasia 5: Bells in 9/8" es maravillosa. Un rápido toque de notas altas sirven de acompañamiento permanente a algunos acordes y notas rápidas que reproduce la mano izquierda en la zona baja del teclado. Una composición risueña y positiva, y otra de mis preferidas!.

"Air 6: Modal Twist" parece otra melodía creada en el momento, como improvisada. Esta es un continuo juego de vertiginosas notas que nacen en las distintas escalas, dejando algunos momentos de descanso. Una obra hipnotizante!.

De elegante sencillez, "Fantasia 6: Half-Second-Hand" no posee una compleja música, ni técnicamente es destacable, pero si es de una profunda hermosura. Un toque persistente de notas de principio a fin son el acompañamiento para una melodía intermitente y penetrante.

Predominando una melodía creada por golpes de acordes, "Air 7: Cantabile Mist" es sencilla en su melodía pero acertada en la composición. La unión de las notas agudas con las más graves ofrecen una sombría belleza a esta lenta obra.

El CD concluye con "Fantasia 7: All in a Chord". Haciendo honor a su título, este tema marca con fuerza un acorde, siendo a veces cansado, esperando con ansias un cambio de tercio que nunca llega. Constante desde su comienzo y distinguiendo algunas mínimas variaciones, la melodía va evolucionando con dificultad entre el repetitivo acorde.

Para los amantes de un piano distinto, minimalista y prodigioso, se descubre 7 Airs & Fantasias and other piano music por el compositor y pianista anglosajón, John Pitts. Un estilo que carece de muy pocos creadores que lo persigan, pero al que le sobran fieles seguidores. Un magistral género que conocemos gracias a los maestros Keith Jarrett o Wim Mertens, por nombrar a los más destacables, y al que hoy incluimos al maestro John Pitts que ha hecho un trabajo espectacular, lo máximo en técnica y en belleza. 7 Airs & Fantasias and other piano music es un álbum muy interesante y recomendable.

Kathy Parsons

From MainlyPiano
"Intensely Pleasant Music: 7 Airs and Fantasias and Other Piano Music" is a collection of pieces composed by John Pitts and performed by pianist Steven Kings. There are sixteen tracks in total, but seven of those are paired as Airs and Fantasias. The opening piece, “Changes,” is a piano duet performed by Kings and Pitts; the others are solo. Although Pitts’ sense of humor often shines in the music, this is serious classical music, some of which is atonal and somewhat chaotic, but several tracks - especially the Airs - are elegant and very beautiful. Pitts has music degrees from Bristol and Manchester Universities (UK) and several of his works have received awards. He has also composed music for Christian worship, plays, and operatic works. One of the short operatic works, titled “Three Sliced Mice,” was commissioned by Five Brothers Pasta Sauces! Kings is also from the UK and received his musical training at the King’s School in Worcester, St. John’s College Cambridge and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He started performing in the 1980’s and continues to perform as a soloist, accompanist, and chamber musician. The album was recorded in August 2008 on a Steinway Model D grand piano.

The album begins with “Changes (For Twenty Nifty Fingers)” a very intense duet for four hands, one piano. While I appreciate the challenge of overlapping parts and keeping track of a 14/8 rhythm, it’s a bit jarring to my ears. “Toccata: Blue Frenzy” is also very intense and discordant as well as technically-demanding. At close to ten minutes, it’s rather challenging for the listener as well. After those two pieces, “Air 1: Gentle Interweaving” came as an “intensely pleasant” surprise! Much more melodic and flowing, I really like this one! “Fantasia 1: Clockwork 5/4” is very intricate, with each hand performing a part quite different from the other. It begins in the upper registers of the piano with the left hand keeping a steady tempo while the right hand freely dances. The piece becomes darker and more mysterious as it evolves. “Air 2: After Satie” is a favorite. The references to Erik Satie are there, but with variations that are not so obvious. “Fantasia 2: On the Westminster Chimes” is a piece for prepared piano with “a small plastic ruler secured loosely in place over middle C to the E above, another ruler wedged between 2 of the 3 F strings, and a bent metal ruler from the next C up over a further octave.” Of course, these objects completely change the sound of the piano and the variations on the Chimes range from fairly quiet to brash and chaotic. It’s definitely interesting! “Air 3: On An Anagram” has obvious references to Chopin, with a dark, haunting melody that expresses deep emotion - another favorite. “Air 4: Sarabande” is also a favorite. Slow and somewhat brooding at the beginning, it picks up momentum in the middle, and then slows and calms, rebuilding energy to the end. “Fantasia 4: Wind Chimes” is a fascinating exploration of the seemingly random sounds and rhythms of wind chimes. Airs and Fantasias #6 and 7 “inhabit a different harmonic world to the other pieces, using a collection of chord relationships called ‘Twisted Harmonies’.” These are quite interesting, but I prefer the first five pairs.

"Intensely Pleasant Music: 7 Airs and Fantasias and Other Piano Music" isn’t for the casual listener or for someone looking for music to fall asleep to - to wake up to, maybe, but it won’t make you sleepy! For those up for a bit of a listening challenge, check it out!