Duncan Honeybourne piano
Gordon Pullin tenor


The first encounter you might have had with the piano music of William Baines (1899-1922) was on a 1995 CD, now on Priory, played by Eric Parkin. In 1999 I purchased the new BMS monograph by Roger Carpenter entitled Goodnight to Flamboro’. It was apt that I found it in a music shop in York, as Baines was a Yorkshireman, born at Horbury near Wakefield. Also, that very day, I had visited Nun Appleton Priory. A photo on the front cover of the CD booklet shows Baines sitting on the steps of the house I had visited.

I started to listen to Duncan Honeybourne’s impassioned rendition of Paradise Gardens on the exact date 100 years on from Baines’ death from tuberculosis on 6th November 1922. Listening to works like Tides, which includes the piece which gave Carpenter the title of his book, and also Pictures of Light, and especially Pool-Lights, which is the third movement of that set (and Baines last composition) one agrees with Duncan Honeybourne, in his excellent and detailed booklet notes, when he beautifully describes the music as an ‘icy musical landscape’. Mr Honeybourne’s playing on this disc is an absolute revelation.

So, one must ask the question, what would such an original musical mind have achieved had he lived even for another decade?

If you have the Eric Parkin disc then this new one can be seen as entirely complementary as only Paradise Gardens, Tides and The Naiad are repeated by Honeybourne, and in addition this new disc includes a lengthy homage to Baines by Robin Walker in a brilliant and dramatic essay entitled At the Grave of William Baines. The booklet has a picture of Walker by Baines’s grave at Horbury, and he also contributes a biographical essay.

Baines described himself as ‘like Debussy’ and by that I suspect he meant that he was creating an emotional image in sound of a landscape or picture, although he went on ‘I have learned more from the wind than from a master’. What is striking is that Baines’s harmonic language is even more unsettled and searching than the Frenchman’s, and at times Scriabin will come to mind. Finding a tonal centre is not always easy especially the later pieces.

The Five Songs, performed with sensitivity and clarity by Gordon Pullin, are quite a find and are settings of a wide variety of poets including Sappho. This then is a disc which anyone with an interest in British music should snap up.

Review by Gary Higginson