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Vincent William WALLACE (1812-1865)
To my Star, Celtic Romance

La Louisiana, Waltz (1842) [4.14]
Music Murmurings in the Trees, Romance (1851) [6.07]
Mazurka, Étude (1858) [3.26]
L'Absence et le Retour, Romance suivre d'une Grande Polka Brillante (1856) [9.09]
To My Star A Mon Etoile, Romance (1844) [3.26]
La Rapidité, Second Étude de Salon (1853) [5.28]
La Force, Third Étude de Salon (1853) [6.46]
A Flower of Poland (Une Fleur de Pologne), Mazurka (1862) [3.42]
Nocturne Dramatique, Grand Nocturne (1848) [6.09]
The Empress L'Imperatrice, Waltz (1844) [2.36]
The Shepherd's Lament (La Plaints du Berger), Idylle (1950) [3.50]
Souvenir of Spain (El Nuevo Jaleo de Jerez), Danse Nationale (1856) [5.50]
The Bee and the Rose, Morceau de Salon (1844) [2.03]
Valse Militaire (1837) [3.26]
La Cracovienne, Grand Fantasie and Variations (1842) [11.49]
Rosemary Tuck, piano
St Silas Church, Kentish Town, London, May 3-4th 2005
CALA CACD 88044 [79:00]


This amply filled disc is the second piano disc of Wallace’s music issued by Cala. The first was a series of Wallace’s piano transcriptions of well known folk songs [CACD88042 - not reviewed]. The present collection is perhaps more interesting for here we have a series of compositions composed by Wallace himself. His style owes something to those balletic qualities reminiscent of Chopin, yet with a pinch of Schubert.

The list of tracks indicates that the musical titles are of continental flavour and one can be forgiven for concluding that here is a composer with a vivid imagination about how these various styles should sound. Not so, it is not widely known that Wallace was a traveller and would have had first-hand experience of countries from France to Australia and Germany to America.

In Wallace, born in Waterford, Ireland, we have a composer who as a teenager was so impressed by Paganini’s playing that he practiced on his violin until able to give virtuoso performances. Then when hearing Henri Herz in a Dublin piano recital he was so impressed that he was motivated to excel at the keyboard also. When starting a new life in Australia (1835) with his young wife it would be his compositions and piano recitals that would feed them. He remained in Australia until 1838 when he left for Chile and the Americas. He found himself in New Orleans in 1842 and New York in 1844 before returning to England by 1845.

From 1855 Wallace spent a lot of his time in Britain, France and Germany: it is this period which tends to be of particular interest to followers of his music. From these years date the operas composed in quick succession between 1860 and 1864 and of which little is known. His lasting testament to music was his highly successful opera, Maritana (1845). This background is helpful when assessing the various merits of the periodic styles covered by pieces on the present disc.

Rosemary Tuck has been an ardent follower of Wallace, and came to my notice with the Cala disc of transcriptions of Celtic folk songs, ‘The Meeting of the Waters’. Last year she played a programme of Wallace’s music at a special Australia House concert given by Richard Bonynge and the Tait Trust. Here, Rosemary Tuck has a confident feel for Wallace’s demanding music and gives us an affectionate performance within a sumptuous acoustic. Her scalic passages and flourishes are accurately measured. The performance reveals the charm of Wallace’s melody lines and makes us clearly aware of interesting rhythms and swirling undercurrents of energy. From what we hear Wallace must have been a good virtuoso pianist.

Of the tracks, I consider one of the most memorable to be the sleepy Salon Étude [tk. 6], where the swinging melody drifts to and fro. It was written and published whilst in New York. The booklet in English gives short notes on each of the pieces as well as a potted biography on Wallace. This disc contains the first recording of solo piano pieces by this almost forgotten Irish composer.

Raymond J Walker

Wallace biographies in print:
William Vincent Wallace, a Memoir, by Gratton Flood (1912) facsimile from Victorian Opera
William Vincent Wallace, A Vagabond Composer by Robert Phelan (1994) ISBN 0 9524629 0 7

see also review by Jonathan Woolf



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