About this Recording
8.223784 - BUCKLEY: 3 Preludes / Winter Music / Oileain

John Buckley (b.1951)

Piano Music

Silent for many years and with few composers that immediately spring to mind, Ireland now has a new generation of young composers beginning to make its mark in the second half of the twentieth century. Tempting as it may be to look to the Nocturnes of John Field for the inspiration of all Irish piano music, one of the new and original voices, far from the days of those early Romantics, is that of John Buckley.

Born in County Limerick, between hills, seas and the Shannon, far from the urban bustle that shapes so much contemporary music, Buckley studied flute and composition at the Royal Irish Academy of Music with Doris Keogh and James Wilson. After studies in Ireland he became a pupil of the Welsh composer, Alun Hoddinott and the American innovationist, John Cage. Initially a teacher, after 1982 he devoted himself to full-time composition. He has produced a wide range of works ranging from solo piano pieces to full scale orchestral works, of which his First Symphony and Organ Concerto have already appeared on Marco Polo (8.223876).

Success can be judged by the commissions Buckley has been given, not only the Organ Concerto written for the National Concert Hall in Dublin, but also such diverse works as Rivers of Paradise ( for the official opening of the University of Limerick Concert Hall), the chamber opera The Words upon the Window Pane (for Opera Theatre Company) and the Maynooth Te Deum (written for the bicentenary of the Maynooth College and first performed in the National Concert Hall in 1995). More recently, Buckley has written his Saxophone Concerto for Kenneth Edge and the Irish Chamber Orchestra as well as the orchestral A Mirror into the Light, composed as recently as 1999 for Camerata Ireland.

This music is not just a result of local commissions or personal inspiration, but has also represented Ireland on five occasions at the International Rostrum of Composers and at three of the ISCM festivals. His score A Thin Hala af Blue represented RTÉ at the 1990 Prix Italia and he has won major awards including the Varming Prize (1977), the Macaulay Fellowship (1978), Arts Council's Composers' Bursary (1982) and the Toonder Award (1991). In 1984 John Buckley was elected to the Irish Academy of creative arts, the Aosdana, and his music has been performed and broadcast in more than forty countries.

This second CD for Marco Polo concentrates on music for solo piano, much inspired by poets such as Yeats, Shelley, Gray and Emily Brontö together with the countryside and legends of native Ireland.

The Three Preludes were first performed in the National Concert Hall, Dublin, in March 1996. Opening with a lyrical and expressive piece developing from a flourish to a tranquil, reflective conclusion, this is based on Yeats' poem He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven. The second Prelude is a perpetuum mobile deriving from words to Shelley's Ode to the West Wind. Finally comes a tribute to James Wilson for his seventieth birthday. Inspired by Emily Bronte, it is based on fragments from Wilson's song-cycle for soprano and chamber orchestra, Emily Singing.

And Wake the Purple Year began as apiece for solo harpsichord, commissioned by Newpark Music Centre and dedicated to Paula Best, who gave the first performance in 1985. This piano version was prepared in 1986 for Gillian Smith. The theme is heard above a tremolo accompaniment and is inspired by Gray's poem Ode to Spring.

Buckley's daughter, Deirdre, and her eleventh birthday were inspiration for the Three Lullabies for Deirdre. Appropriately for a young girl, the music is straightforward and simple. a gentle arpeggio opening, chorale with spiky interjections and a nostalgic jazz-tinged melody.

The Silver Apples of the Moon is again inspired by Ireland's own W.B. Yeats and was commissioned by the 1994 GPA Dublin Piano Competition, its first performance being given by Paolo Cremonte.

In 1988 Winter Music was completed to a commission by the pianist Anthony Byrne and first performed in London's Purcell Room. Representative of that season, the piece is archlike in structure and derived almost entirely from the same basic material. It begins with a portrait of the American Wood Thrush, as portrayed by Messiaen in his ornithological soundscape Oiseaux exotiques. The irregular pace quickens, builds to a climax and subsides to a quieter middle section, after which the opening fanfares return before the work ends with a reflective conclusion.

The final piece on this CD was commissioned by Cardiff University and premièred in 1979 by Martin Jones. Oileáin (Islands) is based on an Irish saga The Voyage of Maelduin, the tale of a hero who sails with seventeen companions to find his father's killer. The voyage visits thirty-one islands, of which Buckley portrays four.

First an island of horse-like beasts tearing the flesh from each other's sides, giving rise to piano clusters and extremes in the instrument's range. Second comes an island of black mourners inspiring a sombre cortège where one of the comrades weeps until unrecognizable and is abandoned. Third an island with white and black sheep where occasionally the shepherd mixes the two which change colour, represented by shifting musical gestures. Finally, the island where inhabitants cry "it is they", music based on octaves for the development of the section.

John Buckley

Ed. David Doughty

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