Virtuoso Piano Works

Simon Proctor composer
Tyler Hay piano

Release Date: December 2, 2022
Catalog #: NV6486
Format: Digital
21st Century
Solo Instrumental
Piano

Composer Simon Proctor and pianist Tyler Hay join forces to bring a dynamic collection of Proctor’s original compositions to life on VIRTUOSO PIANO WORKS from Navona Records. With works spanning decades of his musical career, Proctor delivers a variety of celebrated classical styles with his own personal twists on this album. From rhapsodies to nocturnes, and everything in between, the composer-pianist duo’s mutual love for virtuosic piano music shines throughout, a perfect pairing that makes for a vicariously exciting listening experience.

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Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 Longetude Simon Proctor Tyler Hay, piano 6:20
02 Sonata No. 1: I. Allegretto, Allegro, quasi Andante Simon Proctor Tyler Hay, piano 7:39
03 Sonata No. 1: II. Andante, poco piu mosso, quasi Allegro, poco Allegro Grandioso, Andante Simon Proctor Tyler Hay, piano 10:54
04 Sonata No. 1: III. A Piper – Allegretto Simon Proctor Tyler Hay, piano 5:23
05 Sonata No. 1: IV. Presto, Prestissimo Simon Proctor Tyler Hay, piano 5:46
06 Noctilucent Nocturne Simon Proctor Tyler Hay, piano 6:34
07 Rhapsody No. 17 Simon Proctor Tyler Hay, piano 3:14
08 Nocturne in Silver and Blue Simon Proctor Tyler Hay, piano 6:00
09 Fugal Prelude No. 7 Simon Proctor Tyler Hay, piano 3:25
10 Nocturne at Lake Maggiore Simon Proctor Tyler Hay, piano 5:16
11 Rhapsody No. 18 Simon Proctor Tyler Hay, piano 8:19
12 Rhapsody No. 21 Simon Proctor Tyler Hay, piano 9:24

Recorded March 21, 2022 at St George’s Headstone in Harrow, United Kingdom
Recording Engineers Michael Ponder, Adaq Khan

Cover Art: There Is One Dance You’ll Do Alone by Polly Castor

Executive Producer Bob Lord

A&R Director Brandon MacNeil
A&R Christian Stewart

VP of Production Jan Košulič
Audio Director Lucas Paquette

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Patrick Niland, Aidan Curran

Artist Information

Simon Proctor

Composer

Simon Proctor is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music where he gained the GRSM degree and LRAM diploma in piano performance and teaching. He won several prizes for composition, orchestration, and piano including the Eric Coates prize, the Academy’s top award for orchestral composition. As a pianist, he has given recitals in Germany, The Bahamas, and the United States and has appeared many times as a concerto soloist in the United Kingdom and America.

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Tyler Hay

Pianist

Tyler Hay was born in 1994 in Kent and began learning the piano at the age of 6. He studied with the Head of Keyboard, Andrew Haigh at Kent Music Academy for three years before gaining a place to study at the Purcell School for Young Musicians in 2007 where he continued under Tessa Nicholson. He completed his studies as an ABRSM scholar at the Royal Northern College of Music in 2016 where he studied with the Head of Keyboard Graham Scott and Professor Frank Wibaut.

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Notes

The opening piece on this album dates from as recently as 2020 and is probably the most technically difficult for the performer. Interestingly, it is an amalgamation of his Eight Udes (a set of studies for solo piano) and is primarily a hybrid composition between numbers 1 and 7 from this earlier set. The outer sections are incredibly harsh on the wrists and arms as the music is presented in 3 and 4 note chords in both hands with a driving and perpetual fast rhythm. The middle section is where the heart of this piece lies and is a melodic study in chordal color and sonority.

– Tyler Hay and Simon Proctor

Proctor’s first undertaking of a large-scale four movement piano sonata took place in 1988, but the work underwent a short but concise revision in early 2022. Conventionally, the opening movement provides a deep exploration of early themes and motifs and is the most varied in terms of tempo. The C octave heard at the beginning is intended as a long pedal note by use of the “third” middle pedal, and the structure of the movement has a cyclic feel to it as it concludes with the same two notes in the bass with which it began. 

The crystal-like spread chords in E Major at the opening of the 2nd movement provide the work with an entirely new transparent texture high in the treble. Proctor is careful to allow the music to develop organically over a longer period as this movement slowly grows in textural body. There is a more improvisatory middle section that echoes back to the C minor key that is heard throughout the 1st movement. This progresses into a short and lively dance in 6/8 and is followed by a declamatory statement of the middle section theme which acts as the emotional climax of the movement. The opening E Major spread chords return to resolve all of the tension built up in the musical journey and bring the music to a reflective feeling of timelessness. 

The third movement, “A Piper,” uses a melody originally created for a setting of Seumas O’Sullivan’s poem of the same name. Using Ionian mode, it is a simple and light-hearted folk melody in the manner of Finzi. A freer middle section allows the music to briefly expand and an important quote from the first movement is heard at the end to help connect the overall structure of the sonata. 

The finale is a fun and enormously extroverted “tour de force.” As with the third, this movement contains thematic material from the first movement. Its tongue-in-cheek character is packed full of humor and the writing explores the extremes of pianistic virtuosity. A thunderous ascending run of double octaves followed by a cataclysmic glissando on both white and black notes brings the sonata to its exciting close.

– Tyler Hay and Simon Proctor

This recent composition was commissioned by Proctor’s pupil, Gillian Buisson, in 2020. It is a work in extended ternary form that after a calm and haunting opening, gradually builds to a grandiose climax which then dies away into the relaxed but dark state from which it began. A free and chromatic recitative follows the climactic middle passage, which is a feature that is somewhat of a novelty within Proctor’s output for solo piano. The general exploration of harmonic language is interesting in this piece and the feature of it starting on a major chord and finishing on a minor one is highly unusual.

– Tyler Hay and Simon Proctor

This short and immensely energetic piece packs a powerful punch! It is full of zest and playfulness and requires tremendous agility and technical proficiency to execute. In the middle, the music stalls several times with noticeable silent pauses, the last of which indicates the made up performance direction and acronym, TALATASCO (Turn And Look At The Audience, Suddenly Carry On). This is a typical moment of comedy that of course cannot be noticed on a recording!

– Tyler Hay and Simon Proctor

As Proctor’s first nocturne, this piece dates from 1986 and is the earliest composition featured on this album. The opening theme came from a selection of exploratory ideas originally intended for a rare wind instrument called the kaval. The piece was never written but recognizing the worth in this theme, Proctor realized quickly that it ought not to go to waste and this nocturne has subsequently become one of his most beautiful and best loved pieces. Both the artistic inspiration and title are derived from Whistler’s painting “Nocturne in Blue and Silver, Chelsea” — suggested by his mother; that’s Proctor’s mother, not Whistler’s! The painting’s still atmosphere beautifully reflects the tranquillity of the piano piece.

– Tyler Hay and Simon Proctor

The set of 15 Fugal Preludes combines the formality of a fugue with the freedom of a prelude. They all begin strictly fugally but continue to develop with both contrapuntal and less rigorously structured techniques. They are a highly original and fascinating collection of pieces that cover a number of different musical styles. Some are Classical in their manner, some are jazzy, some contain elements of a style more akin with modern popular ballads, and the final one is in a vaguely Spanish language. However, No. 7 is one of two fugal preludes to be Latin American in feel. It is interesting to note that the countersubject forms the bass line to the answer which simultaneously aligns with the fugal structure and provides the Latin rhythm that runs through the piece.

– Tyler Hay and Simon Proctor

Proctor’s second nocturne, written in 1987, is noticeably spacious and remote. It could even be described as being somewhat sparse and impressionistic. This remarkably moody atmosphere is aided by long pedal notes in the bass and very quiet dynamics throughout. The inspiration for the piece was derived from a particularly evocative painting by Sanford Robinson Gifford entitled “Isola Bella in Lago Maggiore.”

– Tyler Hay and Simon Proctor

The impending drama of Rhapsody No. 18 can be anticipated by the listener in the brooding B flat minor opening sequence. However, a period of calm is to take precedence by means of a prolonged melody in D flat Major using the unusual intervals of parallel 9ths. Finally, the slow section bursts into emotional life with a grand climax of aspects from previously heard themes. A harmonically ambiguous bridge takes us into the beginning of a slow building accelerando that leads the music into a vivacious and rapturous dance full of inexhaustible movement. A sudden pause sets up the final page of declamatory descending chords that build in tension as both dynamics and dissonances intensify. One final gesture in double octaves from the bottom of the keyboard to the top and two accented chords bring the piece to an abrupt finish.

– Tyler Hay and Simon Proctor

Rhapsodic musical possibilities are entirely free and therefore exciting for a young composer to explore. As a child, Proctor wrote many rhapsodies and it can be said that much of his early compositional development came through this form. Rhapsody No. 21 is, so far, the culmination of Proctor’s achievements in this particular genre and it is possibly the most dramatic of all his piano works to date. It begins like a searching improvisation that settles into the key of E minor for a melancholic and slightly tragic opening melody. This is then repeated in the treble with a more filled-out arpeggiated accompaniment. Melody then subsides for two short sections, firstly in F Major and then A minor, where Proctor continues his development with texture and harmony alone. A melody then re-enters in right hand octaves which quickly builds through a crescendo and into the second half of the piece. A scherzando passage then takes flight and with an ever increasing amount of rhythmic drive and vitality, the music spirals into a virtuosic frenzy of pianistic acrobatics. Amidst the apparent rhapsodic chaos is a grand theme that towers above the maelstrom of notes. After a moment of quiet reprieve for a sweet sounding passage in the higher realms of the instrument, the piece then spurts back into life and goes through a section of rhythmic and harmonic quirkiness. The texture of the towering theme then returns, but now using the E minor melody heard at the beginning of the piece. With a sense of thematic unity found, the music is finally ready to move into the monumental coda.

– Tyler Hay and Simon Proctor