Penllyn: collected solo piano music of Peter Reynolds Performed by Duncan Honeybourne (Proper Music)
REVIEW by Ben Lunn in The Morning Star
To write a review about music of your late teacher is quite a heart-breaking thing to do. The whirlwind of emotions is overwhelming, from the sheer joy that colleagues who also deeply admired them have put in so much of their soul to bring the work to life.
Peter Reynolds (1958-2016) was my tutor throughout my bachelor’s degree at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama. On the surface it may sound like he was a lecturer I was fond of, but the relationship a composer has with their teacher is something far grander. Not least when he is the first composition tutor one had.
His understanding of the musical world around us was gargantuan, and I mean that quite literally. He seemed to have a working knowledge of all spheres of music, not out of some egotistical showing off but out of a sheer love for the vastness of music that exists. Though that being said, his tongue was equally sharp.
This album, put together by Luke Whitlock, focuses on Peter’s piano music — most notably, the works written in the last years of his life. The works have a profound sincerity which is both disarming and comforting. A familiarity, and closeness like an old friend is conversing with you softly in a quiet room.
Much like his personality, Peter rarely wrote large works — even having a world record for the world’s shortest opera — but brevity is not a word that suits the music. A microcosm probably describes it best. A unique but tiny musical universe that drifts away like a leaf in the breeze.
The inclusion of music by David Lancaster and Luke Whitlock are nice tributes to Peter and are complementary, though maybe out of longing for my old teacher I probably wanted more time with Peter and his music again. We all grieve differently though, and it is wonderful to see Peter still has so many wonderful admirers.
Peter’s death in 2016 was sudden, and I remember one conversation had among friends which simply ended with: “Who on earth do we share our music with now!?” As a person, he was a mighty backbone for so much of musical life in Wales, though he never put himself forward. Now this album has come out, maybe it is time to give him more attention.
He was, and in many ways still is, the most original voice of his generation in Wales, overshadowed by younger figures like Huw Watkins, and by the older stalwarts such as Alun Hoddinott, Grace Williams and William Mathias.
Maybe this album can give Peter the space and celebration he truly deserves. But damn: do I miss him.