The Song of Amergin
for pianoduration: 12'00"
published by: Composer
Winner of the Barclaycard National Composition Award, 1983.
This piece is named after an ancient pantheistic poem in Goidelic discussed by Robert Graves in his examination of poetic myth, The White Goddess. It is prefaced by the following lines:
I am a stag of seven tines,
I am a wide flood upon a plain,
I am a wind on deep waters;
Ravening I roam the hills,
I descend in tears like dew,
I lie glittering…
I am a threatening noise of the sea,
I return again like the receding wave….
The work calls for a virtuoso technique throughout. It begins with a slow ‘dawn chorus’ before launching into a ferocious Allegro entitled Meridian. A slower central passage recalls the mood and tonality of the opening section before the fast music returns. This sweeps to an immense climax before an unexpectedly hushed and retrospective ending. Following the success of this work in the Barclaycard National Composition Award, 1983, a non-commercial studio recording was made by Hamish Milne.
‘One of those composers who seldom tests boundaries, preferring to turn back in search of roads less taken’, is how Francis Pott describes himself. In other words, conservative, or even ‘derrière-garde’. To which I reply: who cares? For Pott’s piano music communicates warmth, beauty, sophistication and heartfelt expression. It falls easily and memorably both on the ear and (presumably) on Jeremy Filsell’s expertly caressing fingers.
…Pott’s 1983 The Song of Amergin is the collection’s one large-scale opus. Its first two and a half minutes are analogous to the opening of Debussy’s La Mer translated into Middle English, with the music slowly yet decisively materialising from almost nothing. From that point on, the textures grow relentlessly energetic and chordal, even orchestral in nature, winding down to quiet in the last few minutes. Pott’s excellent ability to control harmonic tension and release over large stretches of time prevents the thick ambience from coming off heavy.
…In short, the myriad attractions of Pott’s palpable musical gifts belie the modest and sometimes self-deprecating persona he depicts in his extensive booklet notes.
Jed Distler, Gramophone, November 2019
Pott’s music may not be at the cutting edge of radicalism, but displays idiomatic sensitivity, exquisite craftsmanship and often touching memorability. Pitch centres and Romantic gestures are never far away, but without any sense of cliché or pastiche. …There is something timeless yet of its time about Pott’s writing which makes this music strikingly individual. Pianists in search of a challenge that is never off-putting for listeners will welcome the bold conception and sweeping declamatory gestures, as well as its wide range of characterisation. A significant achievement worth exploring.
Murray McLachlan, International Piano magazine, February 2020
Pott is a modest man. In the sleeve notes, he describes himself as ‘one of those composers who seldom tests boundaries, preferring to turn back in search of roads less taken’. The one large-scale composition [here] is The Song of Amergin (1983), which Pott describes as ‘young man’s music’. It exhibits the structural logic essential to the composer’s work, with its apparently traditional harmony and melody – cerebral music with expressive power.
Andy Hamilton, International Piano magazine, February 2020 [reviewing the CD release A Room at the End of the Mind, ACIS: APL52078]