There are some composers that have been so obscured by their times and currents that their music can come as a kind of great surprise, a most pleasant shock. That to me is the case with William Baines (1899-1922), a composer I have never crossed paths with before, but gladly do so now with the recent album Pictures of Light (Divine Art dda 26234). It is nicely performed by pianist Duncan Honeybourne and a cameo appearance by tenor Gordon Pullin with the “Five Songs.” We get a further interaction of the impact of the composer, a nice view with the concluding homage piano work by Robin Walker (b. 1953), an additional finely turned and exciting work “At the Grave of William Baines.”
What we hear in the main (in the first 20 tracks) from Baines is some wonderfully wrought solo piano music that straddles the gap between Late Romantic expressive heights and Early-Modern torrents of somewhat edgy dramatics. So there is some relationship (you might note like I have) with Sorabji, Scriabin, Alkan, Debussy and Ravel, etc. Throughout the nicely performed totality is both an affiliation as I suggest but also a very original and bold brush of beautiful exceptionality, something saddened by the realizatipn of how ny=uch more the composer would have been had he lived pas the tragically brief, twenty-something-odd years of his actual lifetime.
I can say here without the slightest hesitation that this is a rather indispensable offering, exceptional piano music of its time by one we should now re-remember and rejoice to hear no matter how brief his lifespan, you who value the golden ages of pianism! This is a heretofore unknown but no less welcome addition to what we celebrate. Bravo.