Kenneth Leighton was a pianist of considerable accomplishment and his activities as both a composer and a musician often centered on the piano. As a composer-pianist, he had an innate understanding of the instrument and what he described as its ‘inexhaustible possibilities’. Quite appropriately, his first published work was for the instrument, Sonatina No. 1, Op. 1a, and the last music that he wrote, before his premature death at the age of fifty-eight, was the beginning of a compendium of Preludes for piano, the partially complete result of which features in this recital. Returning to the instrument at regular intervals, Leighton often wrote through inner compulsion rather than as a consequence of a commission. The piano proved an excellent tool with which to write some of his most virtuosic and experimental music, but it also offered him a chance to compose simpler works for young players in nonetheless challenging styles.
Two of the works on this disc, recorded here for the first time, date from the years 1951 – 55, a time of self-discovery in his musical language, which included a period of study in Rome with the avant-garde composer Petrassi. Winter Scenes, a suite of seven short movements, remains unpublished and, as far as is known, was never performed in public by Leighton or any of his contemporaries. Along with the progressive Sonata No. 3, Op. 27, it demonstrates Leighton’s growing mastery of piano technique.
Margaret Fingerhut has an extensive discography on Chandos. In a recent review she was described as ‘an accomplished and stylish advocate’ (BBC Music).