John McCabe was a British composer, pianist, occasional conductor and enthusiastic administrator who died earlier this year. As a composer who wrote in almost every genre, his output was prolific. His mature style was characterised by dramatic post-tonalism and vivid orchestration, combined with both accessibility and integrity. As a concert pianist, he recorded and performed widely; his recordings of Haydn's complete piano sonatas are recognised as a landmark achievement.
This month's new release features John McCabe in the dual roles of pianist and composer, and is a perfect illustration of why he was held in such high regard in both of them. He also served as president of the British Music Society from 1989 until 2014. This new release is the latest in a series of the society's reissues and new recordings on the Naxos label.
John McCabe was a composer-pianist who excelled internationally in both fields. For his own instrument he wrote a distinguished series of works in which variation form is a recurrent feature. Seventeen years separate the Variations, Op. 22, described by John Ogdon as standing “closer to Rachmaninov’s use of variation technique than to Brahms’s”, and the masterly, unorthodox and original Haydn Variations, McCabe’s longest solo piano work. The evocative Bagatelles and Studies are notable for their unceasing exploration of pianistic and compositional techniques.
Listen to an extract from 5 Bagatelles: No. 2 Aria
“The chorus, the redoubtable BBC Singers, is as perfect as one would expect in technique, tone, and expression, and David Hill … has outdone himself here in the imaginative and perceptive shaping of these choral gems. It doesn’t get better than this.”
Listen to an extract from