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Phillip Ramey - Piano Music, 1961-2003

Color Etudes (1994) Memorial (In Memoriam Alexander Tcherepnin ) (1977) Chromatic Waltz (1993) Piano Sonata No. 1 (1961) Piano Sonata No. 2 (1966; rev. 2003) Piano Sonata No. 5 (For the Left Hand) (1989) Piano Fantasy (196972) Four Tangier Portraits (199199) Toccata No. 2 (1990)

Stephen Gosling, piano

Toccata Classics TOCC0029

Most of the material on this CD is recorded for the first time and it shows Ramey to have been a composer with the strongest of identities and a consistency throughout his career.

Ramey is modernist in the conventionally understood sense rhythmical pulse is its single most important element, cloaking powerfully expressive melodic motifs. His work is self-evidently post-Romantic, and pays homage to the piano tradition the Toccata reminiscent of Schumann, or the finale of Sonata 1 has allusions to Pour le piano and Childrens Corner. As the notes suggest, a strong structural awareness and harmonic interest pervade Ramey's work and give the sense of a powerful cerebrally inclined, severe imagination.

But Ramey does not write without charm; indeed, the color etudes that open the disc are arguably the highlight of the whole CD, notably the melodic invention of Gold, and the pointillistic energy of Green. Elsewhere, the personal element in Ramey's composition is very evident - the Tangier Portraits include one of Ramey's friend Paul Bowles, also a composer, but far better known as the author of The Sheltering Sky, and a trenchant picture of Ramey himself. Ramey's friend and teacher Tcherepnin , is commemorated by Memorial.

Gosling takes on the challenge of this music head-on. He is unashamedly virtuosic, precise in technique, his musicality well-crafted. He deals effortlessly, for example, with the difficult textures of the left-hand sonata. Yet, his playing is most convincing in lyrical and reflective moments the affectionate, musette-like portrayal of Bowles at 80 and the brief, tinkling Chromatic waltz, the understanding sensitivity with which he plays Memorial, the elegiac Red and the liturgical Purple . Elsewhere, as at the start of Silver , in Black or in the Sonata 2 finale, the abruptness of his attack can become too relentless for comfort.

The recording is close and at times almost overpowering, not unacceptable for such direct repertoire. Good notes and presentation, although unfortunate that Gosling's picture is placed inside the inlay tray in such a way that the central spike holding in the CD itself exactly obscures his nose. Overall, a disc of very great interest.

© Ying Chang