Martin Jones

Resonus  RES10331

In the book A Pilgrim Soul by Meirion and Susie Harries (Michael Joseph 1989) they write ‘Few people consider Lizzie’s piano works to be amongst her best, she herself felt she did not really understand the instrument’. But Martin Jones has now recorded the third volume of her piano music, which amounts in all to well over three hours. Indeed, there are five works on this disc – Overture, Berceuse, Barcarolle, Holiday Diary, and Dance Souvenance that are not even listed in her complete catalogue.

The remaining works on this disc are published, that is the three sets of the late Bagatelles and Helix (meaning a shape like a corkscrew), a typically abstract piece from 1967. These are in her own personal serial technique in which she creates her unique sound world, something she had always wanted to do from an early age. The Bagatelles, 17 in all, in three books, sum up her language. Sometimes angry and vehement, then still, almost lost, then romantic and yearning, then impressionistic, often delicately beautiful, in other words they are just like any other music, except that they are not in a major or minor key.

The unpublished pieces date from the 1940s. The most interesting, in so far as it presages this later stye, is the Berceuse with its elegant yet jagged melodic line. She was capable of writing the delightful melodies that she achieved often in her film scores, and she does so here with the Dance Souvenance.

Holiday Diary has many delightful, lovely and memorable melodies as it tells the story of an idyllic week’s family holiday in Cornwall, told from the point of view of one of Lutyens children (she had four in all). 

The indefatigable Martin Jones, whose achievement in recording this mostly highly complex piano music over the last three years, is now called on to be a narrator as the story of the week’s adventures unfolds with music that any child would enjoy, but which is also clever and highly imaginative. We have a fairground, misty seas, and a train ride, and much more. It must be remembered that Lutyens earned her living by composing incidental and film music, always just hitting on the right mood and the right time.

The booklet writer, Leah Broad, gives us a useful overall view of Lutyens career and character, and fits it neatly into this amazingly varied music, here presented and recorded with clarity and immediacy.

Review by Gary Higginson