Bright day CD503053

The Bright Day is Done
Finghin Collins (piano)
rec. 2022 at St Peter’s Church of Ireland, Drogheda

This programme was devised by Dublin born pianist Finghin Collins and Clara Higgins, Dublin International Chamber Music festival’s artistic director after listening to the Ros Tapestry Suite and in particular Midday by Irish composer Gerald Barry. Collins plays an atmospheric selection of music evoking the day from dawn to dusk and beyond. Night pieces are common and I can think of many recitals that have portrayed the hours of darkness and their mysteries but this is the first that I have come across that depicts a full day through music.

Cécile Chaminade’s gracious Aubade is a delightful way to start the day with its lovely baritone melody while the first of Amy Beach’s Hermit Thrush pieces is a slightly melancholic waltz, its more impassioned central section melting away with the trilling of bird song. Schubert’s Morning greeting is all warmth and sunshine in Godowsky’s complex but beautiful arrangement; Collins has a keen sense of melodic line and colour so it is a little surprising that a wrong note – a D natural instead of a D flat in the octave presentation of the theme in the third verse – made it on to the disc. Thankfully it is a fleeting lapse amid some lovely playing – I imagined that Godowsky’s transcription of gute Nacht might be chosen as a companion but it is nonetheless nice to at least have this rarely heard transcription.

We have reached noon and the work that inspired this recital, Midday by Gerald Barry, the third piece from the Ros Tapestry suite, a collaborative work by fifteen Irish composers. The full title of Barry’s work – Arrogant Trespass: The Normans Landing at Bannow Strand – does not appear to be mentioned in the contents or notes of this release and I would not have guessed it from this extremely minimalist piece; of the nearly eight minutes of music the first 3:12 are given to thirty iterations of a single, brief motif and a short repeated note motif fills the final couple of minutes. The other short motifs are equally compact and the whole gives an impression of tense, anxious expectation before the invasion rather than the invasion itself. It is not a piece for me but Collin’s magnificent control and timing are not to be faulted. The contrast with the next piece, Le Midi by Irish pianist composer John Field is striking; this is a buoyant and charming rondo full of sparkling and elegant fingerwork. Field’s work was originally Le Midi: Rondeau précédé d’une pastorale but it appears the work was later published without the pastorale and this is the version Collins plays. The afternoon passes quickly in Field’s company and Amy Beach’s beautifully nocturnal A Hermit Thrush at Eve ushers us towards evening, the Thrush’s trilling song lingering in the air.

A second visit to the musical evocations of the Ros tapestry comes in the form of Eric Sweeney’s Evening – the Lighthouse at Hook Head, ably portraying the rolling waves crashing against Ireland’s south-east coast and the chanting of monks at a nearby monastery. Three very different evenings are offered next with Liszt’s Harmonies du soir, utter tranquillity rising to a monumental, impassioned climax, Debussy’s La Soirée dans Grenade all languid, heady atmosphere and streets full of crowds and Bartók’s The Night’s Music combining the sounds of the natural world, insects and birds with a plaintive chorale and a jolly peasant’s pipe tune. Clara and Robert Schumann take us into the night, Clara serenading with the Nocturne from her early Soirées Musicales, a beautiful piece that once again shows what a gift for melodic and idiomatic writing she had. Its melody over a lilting left hand accompaniment is given tasteful decoration as the piece progresses; there is a more restless barcarolle at it heart and some interesting turns of harmony that lift it out of the crowd. Her husband’s view of the night, written a year later, is much more turbulent, a mix of thematic fragments that rise out of disconcerting swirling figures and long melodic lines whose before-the-beat accompaniment reminds us that the unease of darkness is not far away. To bring us to the end of the busy day Collins plays one of the most familiar of night pieces, the F sharp Nocturne by Chopin, drawing the night around us into restful sleep.

This is a wonderfully well thought out and executed recital and has an interesting mix of the familiar and unfamiliar – I was especially happy to make the acquaintance of Clara Schumann’s magical little nocturne – and Finghin Collins is a thoughtful and skilful story teller and guide.

Rob Challinor

Help us financially by purchasing from

Presto Music

Cécile Chaminade
Op.140 (pub.1911)
Amy Beach
A Hermit Thrush at Morn
Op.92 No.2 (1921)
Franz Schubert
(1797-1828) arr. Leopold Godowsky (1870-1938)
from Die schöne Müllerin D.795 (1823)
Gerald Barry
from the Ros Tapestry Suite (2014)
John Field
Le Midi
Amy Beach

A Hermit Thrush at Eve
Op.92 No.1 (1921)
Eric Sweeney
the Lighthouse at Hook Head from the Ros Tapestry Suite (2015)
Franz Liszt
Harmonies du Soir
from Transcendental Etudes S.139 No.11 (1851)
Claude Debussy
La Soirée dans Grenade
from Estampes L.100 No.2 (1903)
Béla Bartók
the Night’s Music
from Out of Doors Sz.81 BB.89 (1926)
Clara Schumann
from Soirées Musicales Op.6 (1835-36)
Robert Schumann
In der Nacht
from Fantasiestücke Op.12 (1837)
Frédéric Chopin
Nocturne in F sharp major Op.15 No.2 (1830-31)