A Room at the End of the Mind
music for piano by Francis Pott
1. Toccatina on Two Christmas Carols (1983)
2. Prelude in G sharp minor (2012)
3. Venezia (2018)
A Room at the End of the Mind (2008)
4. I. Prologue
5. II. The Fall of the Leaf
6. III. Villanelle
7. IV. The Church Mouse
8. V. Canto
9. VI. Psalterye
10. VII. Master Finzi: His Ghoste
11. VIII. Passamezzo
12. IX. A Toye
13. X. A Leave-taking
14. XI. Le Temps qui n’est plus
15. XII. The King went forth to Normandy
16. Scherzo-Notturno (1981/2014)
17. The Song of Amergin (1983)
‘One of those composers who seldom tests boundaries, preferring to turn back in search of roads less taken’, is how Francis Pott describes himself. In other words, conservative, or even ‘derrière-garde’. To which I reply: who cares? For Pott’s piano music communicates warmth, beauty, sophistication and heartfelt expression. It falls easily and memorably both on the ear and (presumably) in Jeremey Filsell’s expertly caressing fingers.
Take Venezia, for example. The ambling passagework gently grooves in cruise control, offset, however, by unexpected melodic twists or ornaments. The Scherzo-Notturno begins with seemingly innocuous pentatonic arpeggios that soon bump into harmonies one never saw coming. Towards the end, softer, more introspective sequences navigate darker, more brooding waters. Twelve delightfully diverse short character studies comprise A Room at the End of the Mind, the cycle from which this CD takes its title. Since space prevents detailed descriptions for each piece, I’ll draw attention to ‘The Church Mouse’ and its wry alternations between scampering high jinks and moments of not-so-comfortable respite. ‘Passamezzo’ might be described as Rachmaninov’s ‘Vocalise’ as rewritten centuries earlier by William Byrd. ‘The king went forth to Normandy’ puts that traditional Agincourt carol through energetic and virtuoso paces, barely leaving the pianist breathing room, yet never sounding the least cluttered or overwritten.
Pott’s 1983 The Song of Amergin is the collection’s one large-scale opus. Its first two and a half minutes are analogous to the opening of Debussy’s La mer translated into Middle English, with the music slowly yet decisively materialising from almost nothing. From that point on, the textures grow relentlessly energetic and chordal, even orchestral in nature, winding down to quiet in the last few minutes. Pott’s excellent ability to control harmonic tension and release over large stretches of time prevents the thick ambience from coming off heavy. On the other hand, such textures grow increasingly diffuse and, for the lack of a better word, ‘swimmy’ via Acis’s distant and overly reverberant engineering.
In short, the myriad attractions of Pott’s palpable musical gifts belie the modest and sometimes self-deprecating persona he depicts in his extensive booklet notes.
JED DISTLER, Gramophone, November 2019
An exciting release of Piano Works by esteemed composer, Francis Pott (b. 1957).Jeremy Filsell is one of only a few virtuoso performers as both pianist and organist. He has appeared as a solo pianist in Russia, Scandinavia, New Zealand and Australia and throughout the USA and UK. His concerto repertoire encompasses Bach, Mozart and Beethoven through to Shostakovich, John Ireland, Constant Lambert and the Rachmaninov cycle. He has recorded the solo piano music of Herbert Howells, Bernard Stevens, Eugène Goossens and Johann Christoph Eschmann and recent releases include discs of Rachmaninov’s solo piano music (Signum), the first two Rachmaninov Concerti (Raven) and the piano music of Francis Pott (Acis).
Jeremy is on the international roster of Steinway Piano Artists and has recorded for BBC Radio 3, USA, and Scandinavian radio networks in solo and concerto roles. His discography comprises more than 35 solo recordings. Gramophone magazine commented on the series of 12 CDs comprising the premiere recordings of Marcel Dupré’s complete organ works for Guild in 2000 that it was ‘one of the greatest achievements in organ recording.’ In 2005, Signum released a 3-disc set of the six organ symphonies of Louis Vierne, recorded on the 1890 Cavaillé-Coll organ in St. Ouen, Rouen. He has taught at universities, summer schools, and conventions in both the UK and USA and has served on international competition juries in England and Switzerland. Recent solo engagements have taken him across the USA and UK and to Germany, France, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Australia and New Zealand. In North America, he concertizes under the auspices of Philip Truckenbrod Concert Artists.
As a teenager, Jeremy Filsell was a Limpus, Shinn & Durrant prizewinner for FRCO and was awarded the Silver Medal of the Worshipful Company of Musicians. As a student of Nicolas Kynaston and Daniel Roth, he studied as an Organ Scholar at Keble College, Oxford before completing graduate studies in piano performance with David Parkhouse and Hilary McNamara at the Royal College of Music in London. His PhD in Musicology from Birmingham City University/Conservatoire was awarded for research involving aesthetic and ATH 20interpretative issues in the music of Marcel Dupré. Before moving to the USA in 2008, he held Academic and Performance lectureships at the Royal Academy of Music in London and the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, and was a lay clerk in the Queen’s choir at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. He currently combines an international recital and teaching career with being director of music at The Church of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Washington DC, Artist-in-residence at Washington National Cathedral, and Professor of Organ at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. In April 2019, he moved to New York, following in the footsteps of illustrious predecessors, Gerre Hancock, John Scott and Daniel Hyde as Organist & Director of Music at St. Thomas’ Church, 5th Avenue.