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A Touch of Class - four hands on one piano
Philip LANE (b.1950) Badinages I Mouvement perpetuel; Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907) Norwegian Dance, Op.35, No.2; Peer Gynt Suite No.1, Op.46 III Anitra’s dance; Adolf JENSEN (1837-1879) Wedding music, Op.45 Wedding procession; Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943) Six morceaux, Op.11 No.3 Theme Russe; No.4 Valse; Alfredo CASELLA (1883-1947) Pupazzetti 5 Pezzi facili I Marcetta; II Berceuse; III Serenata; IV Notturnino; V Polca; Georges BIZET (1838-1875) Jeux d’enfants, Op.22 No.12 Le Bal; Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1829) Marche militaire, Op.51, No.1; Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924) Dolly, Op.56 6. Le pas Espagnole; Charles CAMILLERI (b.1931) Paganiana Variations for piano four-hands; Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921) Le Carnaval des Animaux XIII Le Cygne; XIV Final;  Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904) Legends, Op.59 No.6; Leroy ANDERSON (1908-1975) Fiddle Faddle; Paolo di BIASE (b.1942) Duo tango
Rachel and Vanessa Fuidge (four hands on one piano)
rec. Whiteley Hall, Chetham's School of Music, Long Millgate, Manchester,  5 April 2005
DUNELM RECORDS DRD0241 [58:30]

 



Music-making by piano duettists, four hands at one piano, has a long history. Many works we think of as orchestral started out as piano duets. This is reflected on this CD: Grieg’s Norwegian Dances, Bizet’s Jeux d’Enfants, Schubert’s Marche Militaire, Fauré’s Dolly Suite and Dvořák’s Legends. Sometimes the process works in the opposite direction, as here with Anitra’s Dance and Leroy Anderson’s Fiddle Faddle, though these performers do not, despite their obvious enjoyment in playing it, quite convince me that the latter is not preferable in its original string orchestral mode.

Rachel and Vanessa Fuidge are twins and, at the time of writing, seventeen years of age and living in Glossop, Derbyshire. They have behind them many successes in music festivals and a not inconsiderable concert experience. Their playing, if not quite note perfect, has accomplishment, enterprise and a charming freshness. They are excellent musicians and have a wide taste in repertoire. Some might feel it a disadvantage that their programme seems a trifle “bitty” – just one Norwegian Dance, one movement from Jeux d’Enfants, one Dvořák Legend and so on – but to me it suggests a desire to play as wide a range of music as possible. And there are plenty of pieces which are relatively, even almost entirely, unfamiliar to audiences. Philip Lane’s Mouvement Perpetuel, one of his four Badinages, was a tribute to Lord Berners and is suitably whimsical. Casella’s “five easy pieces” Pupazetti (Puppets) have their astringencies, to be sure, but they are rhythmic and atmospheric. Adolf Jensen’s Wedding Procession is rousing stuff and although Jensen was a Dane, sounds in places almost English. Also it is good to have on disc Rachmaninov’s two movements (from the Six Morceaux, Opus 11), especially the doleful Thème Russe, and the Paganiana by the Maltese composer Charles Camilleri, one of the latest, and probably the most concise, attempts – of many by a variety of composers – at varying that celebrated Paganini violin Caprice. There’s a lollipop to finish, the Duo Tango by the Italian Paolo di Biase (born 1942) but very Spanish in feel.

The recording, made at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, where the twins study at weekends, is very clear and natural. I have the greatest pleasure in recommending this disc as an introduction to the wide range, both familiar and less familiar, of the piano duet repertoire.

Philip L. Scowcroft

 

Ian Milnes has also reviewed this disc:

This is one of the most enjoyable CDs I’ve ever heard. Seventeen-year-old twins, Rachel and Vanessa Fuidge present a pleasantly varied programme that shows off their many fine qualities. And there is humour, too!

The order of the items is well chosen to add to the listening enjoyment, with the first movement of Philip Lane’s Badinages making a brilliant, lively start. The performers bring out all the humour in it and the adroit performance caused me much merriment!  Then comes a lovely contrast in the two Grieg pieces in which much attention is paid to the detail, especially in the rhythms, so well in evidence. More contrasts are heard both in Jensen’s Wedding procession and especially the Thème Russe of Rachmaninov (the longest piece on the CD at 5 minutes 22 seconds), where the sombre atmosphere is well sustained, with real power generated in the climax section. In the Valse that follows, Rachel and Vanessa display some effective rubato. Casella’s delightful puppet portraits are played with great attention to the contrasts between them, and the humour associated with the playful nature of puppets is well pointed. The traditional composers are not overlooked and the performances of the well-known pieces by Bizet, Schubert, Fauré and Saint-Saëns all have a splendid freshness. Outstanding is “Le Cygne” with some lovely dynamics in the melody and the surrounding figurations. Then follows an hilarious interpretation of the “Final”. It’s good to hear a different set of variations on Paganini’s famous theme – here by Charles Camilleri – especially in such a virtuosic performance!  Dvořák’s Legend No. 6 is played most imaginatively, while the CD ends with two really catchy pieces, one by Leroy Anderson – the rests in the middle section adding to the fun! – and the other by di Biase, the delicate ending of which is handled superbly by Rachel and Vanessa.

The twins have an excellent technique and a lively musicality that enables them to give superb interpretations. They are so well in control that the whole exercise sounds fun, and this communicates itself to the listener, resulting in a wonderfully enjoyable experience. The girls have written the booklet notes on each of the pieces in a clear, concise style and a short career profile is also included. The cover photograph is outstandingly good.

I know of the work done by Jim Pattison of Dunelm Records to promote young musical talent through the medium of sound recordings. He seems to have the ability of putting performers at their ease at the sessions so that they enjoy the experience. This CD is another fine example of this practice.

Throughout, Rachel and Vanessa – helped by a superb recording – bring out the clarity of the many varied textures really well. The session was held on
April 5th, 2005 in the Whiteley Hall, Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester, by kind permission of the Director of Music, and ably produced by Miss Susan Bettaney, a teaching member of staff of the Keyboard Department. An outstanding CD, full of joy! Very highly recommended.

Ian Milnes

 

 

 



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