“Ten Pieces for Piano” reviewed by Sarah Lawton in The Canadian Music Teacher, Vol. 68 No.2, January 2017.
Nicholas Fairbank offers a unique collection of piano pieces for the early to late intermediate pianist… Fairbank composes in a polyphonic texture with a modern twist. The most significant composition in this collection is his Variations on B-A-C-H; here Fairbank uses the motives and sequences normally associated with … the Baroque era and infuses his ten variations with modern polytonality and syncopation…
My favorite piece in this collection, entitled Prelude… merges a lyrical cantabile style with split chords in the left hand. … Thoughtful effort went into the variety of pieces here. If you are looking for some interesting, out-of-the-ordinary piano pieces for your late intermediate student, then add Ten Pieces for Piano as a noteworthy addition to your library.
From a review by Elizabeth Courtney, Music in Victoria, of a performance of “Isbjørn!,” 15 Nov., 2013:
The opening lines, “let us probe the silent places” from a text by Robert Service were heralded by a compelling evocation of arctic winds, a sibilant ssshhh-ing building to an eerie howling, shimmering dissonances on “silent places”, a soprano’s “I know” shadowed by a bass, filling the entire cathedral as if the stones themselves were singing, “the wild calling, calling…” Marcus Lund’s word painting followed. From delicate to bold, tempos and tones ever-changing from smooth to up tempo, silence and “inky violet deeps” in beautiful language created the vast and mysterious backdrop in which the “transformative vision” might take place.
The third section invoked Isbjørn like an ancient God, the percussionist making sounds like cracking ice, a deep voiced shamanic intoning summoning up the image of the king of beasts. An unearthly high soprano echoed the invocation, and the climactic sounding of cymbal, drum and bells seemed to peel away the layers of Christian sensibility to reveal the epoch when the Bear was truly the Great King of all creatures.
The fourth section, based on a text from Barry Lopez’ Arctic Dreams, consisted entirely of naming the endlessly subtle gradations of colour in the arctic, hypnotic voices chanting each shade as a separate jewel from white, ash grey through aquamarine, reddish yellow and watered purple.
The last movement left words behind, and in a stunning interplay of beautifully shaped vowels and cadences took me right out into the enormous spaces, the vast horizon, the aurora borealis itself, before fading and dying into the Arctic night. Beautifully written, perfectly sung, it brought a strange and remarkable journey to an extremely satisfying conclusion.
Notes from the Morelia International Organ Festival in Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico, October 22 – 29, 2011:
Presenta Nicholas Fairbank piezas barrocas y contemporeneas en el Festival de Organo, Miercoles, 26 de Octubre de 2011 13:50
Morelia, Mich.- “El Festival Internacional de Organo de Morelia presente al canadiense Nicholas Fairbank mostrando un repertorio variado y poco habitual, que incluye sonoridades barrocas y contemporeneas, para deleite de los miles de asistentes que se congregaron en el recinto catedralicio, quienes tuvieron oportunidad de apreciar piezas innovadoras de distintos periodos y estilos. El Praeludium und Fuge e moll, de Nicolaus Bruhns, el interprete puso de manifiesto el virtuosismo caracteristico de este compositor aleman, haciendo resonar con majestuosidad el organo monumental de Morelia. Livre d’orgue de Montreal, escrita en el siglo XVII, se evoca un dialogo entre tonalidades que cautive a la audiencia. Con la Sonata No. 3 en A Mayor, de Felix Mendelssohn, el concierto vivio su parte mas emotiva, dejando observar la calidad y sensibilidad del interprete, asi como su habilidad en el manejo de un instrumento complejo que revistio a la noche de intensidad musical. La velada se completa cuando Fairbank obsequio a los asistentes un par de composiciones de su autoria, Festival Fanfare y Poem. Finalmente fueron interpretadas Suite breve, Op. 6 No. 1, de Rachel Laurin y Petite suite, de Gerald Bales…”
Escrito por Redaccion/ Nucleo Informativo 2610
O Sing Merrily SAB/keyboard. “We seldom get an A+SAB anthem; usually they’re watered-down, four-part arrangements intended for amateur groups with enough men. Well, this is one merry piece by a fine composer, and the fourth part will never be missed – especially in the beginning imitation where the alto’s second entrance gives the impression of a fourth part. The entire five and one-half pages repeats with a coda, so the choir even gets a second chance!”
Rollin Smith in The American Organist, July 2009.
“Surely the shining star of the night was Nick Fairbank with his Kingsfold Variations. His playing was absolutely brilliant, demonstrating the fine tonal resources of the Cathedral’s Wolff organ. This was a joy to hear, and all the more so as it was our local composer who wrote this delightful work.”
Fran Pollet in Pro Organo, May 2009.
Gaudeamus … would make a fine postlude to a major liturgical celebration.”
Song of Ruth … is carefully crafted in contrasting textures and ranges to bring out a wide variety of tone colours. This music displays Fairbank’s fluency in twentieth-century French compositional and improvisational styles.”
“Variations on Kingsfold … displays economy of material, directness of expression, and a wide contrast of affective moods, very often controlled through well thought-out textural contrasts …”
William Renwick in Organ Canada, vol.16 no.3 (2003).
“Victoria composer Nicholas Fairbank’s recent piano works prove him to be a composer worth studying. His charming Vancouver Island Suite … shows that he knows his forms and has a sense of fun. Toccata is a work to be reckoned with and requires an advanced technique as well as good interpretive skills. Ten Preludes contains an interesting mix of lush, very tonal and accessible music to technically and interpretively challenging 12-tone pieces.”
Ernst Schneider in the Provincial Newsletter of the B.C. Registered Music Teachers’ Association, Spring 2002.
“Fairbank’s writing is… consistently elegant, and devoted to beauty as a vehicle for text… Deserving special mention is his elaborate setting of If ye love Me, whose repetition of short text fragments breaks violently with the simple poise of Tallis’ beloved setting, but nonetheless conveys the warm sentiment of the Johannian text of Jesus to the disciples at Pentecost.”
Christopher Dawes in Organ Canada, Sept. 2006.
“Suite No.2 … is neo-classical, bearing a lot of resemblance to dance and stylistic features of the baroque suite but feeling free to depart from them as well, particularly in the area of tonality. I think these pieces would appeal to an advanced student who has some knowledge of form, suite movements and key structure…. The composer uses rhythm most effectively. In the Prelude there are several insertions of a bar of 2/4 time which acts as a connecting link. The Courante features a quirky little recurring hemiola. The Sarabande has an interesting triplet pattern which is shared between two voices and the Jig, which begins simply, builds through subtly altered chromatic chords to quite a thick texture of seven-note chords, ending with a chordal hemiola before closing on slow tonic seventh chords.”
Joyce Janzen in the Provincial Newsletter of the B.C. Registered Music Teachers’ Association, Fall 2007.