Saint-Saens’s Etudes offer an intricate and scintillating panoply of the French school of technique (the basis and prophecy of what Jean-Philippe Collard so mischievously called Marguerite Long’s ‘diggy-diggy-dee’ school of piano playing). Yet as Piers Lane tells us in his alternately wry and delightful accompanying essay (obligatory reading for all lovers of French pianism), they can be as evocative (‘Les cloches de las Palmas’) as they are finger-twisting (‘En forme de valse’, to name but one). The left-hand Etudes, too, given their self-imposed limitation, are a fragile and poetic surprise. In other words Saint-Saens’s Etudes are more comprehensive than their equivalents by, say, Moszkowski or Lazare Levey (superbly recorded by Ilana Vered on Connoisseur Society and Danielle Laval on French EMI, respectively – neither issued in the UK).
A real rarity from Hyperion’s Anglo-Australian artistic collaboration: music by an Australian composer who was once at the heart of the English establishment. Malcolm Williamson was one of many Australian creative artists who relocated to Britain in the mid-twentieth century. Within a decade of settling in London he had established a reputation as one of the most gifted and prolific composers of his generation. His stature as a leading figure within the British music scene was publicly acknowledged in 1975 when he was appointed to the esteemed post of Master of the Queen’s Music in succession to Sir Arthur Bliss. But today he is almost forgotten and his music virtually never performed.
The oblivion which has overtaken d’Albert in the second half of the twentieth century would have surprised anyone who saw his prodigious rise to fame in the 1880s and ’90s. He was known then as one of the world’s greatest pianists, had studied with Liszt, and knew Brahms. From his teens there began to emerge a body of composition which showed a maturity well beyond his years and seemed to produce a fusion of the then-incompatible schools of the ‘moderns’ (Liszt and Wagner) and the ‘traditionalists’ (Brahms and his followers).
Piers Lane gambols delightfully through the twentieth century in this album of encores, party pieces and a few pianophile rarities, ranging from Dame Myra Hess’s unforgettable arrangement of Bach’s Jesu, joy of man’s desiring to Dudley Moore’s equally unforgettable Beethoven pastiche.
Michael Collins is one of our most versatile clarinettists, possessing a dazzling virtuosity and sensitive musicianship that have made him the favourite of conductors, composers, and audiences throughout the world. Now an exclusive Chandos artist, Collins is embarking on a series of recordings designed to display the extraordinarily wide range of music written for his instrument. The present programme comprises a varied repertoire, concentrating generally (though not exclusively) on its more extrovert virtuoso aspects and offering some breathtaking show-stoppers. Well-known works such as Rachmaninoff’s haunting Vocalise contrast with the sunny brilliance of Giampieri’s Il carnevale di Venezia, and the playful, inventive French items by Milhaud and Messager provide a further contrast in mood and colour.
Two chamber masterpieces from nineteenth-century Russia, performed by Piers Lane and the Goldner String Quartet. Taneyev has been known as the ‘Russian Brahms’ and this epithet is particularly apposite when considering his Piano Quintet in G minor, especially as regards both its instrumental writing and its intellectual passion. Composed in 1911, this massive work bids fair for the accolade of the greatest work in the Russian piano-chamber repertoire before Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet of 1940. Only the extravagance of its technical demands can explain its failure to establish itself in the standard repertoire.
Acclaimed pianist Piers Lane and his fellow Australians, the Goldner String Quartet, reprise their highly successful partnership in these world-premiere recordings of the two String Quartets and Piano Quintet of Irish composer Hamilton Harty. Born in County Down, Harty (1879–1941) was a remarkable, self-taught musician who wrote in a lyrical Romantic idiom, as evidenced in these appealing works, while incorporating a modal astringency and folk-music charm that are reminiscent of Percy Grainger. In particular, the winding, pentatonic melody of the Lento of the Piano Quintet—a lusciously big-boned work worthy of Tchaikovsky—and the delightful 9/8 ‘hop jig’ of the first movement of String Quartet No 2 seem like settings of folk-melodies that have echoed for centuries around the green hills of Ireland. Intriguingly, however, they are entirely Harty’s own invention.