CHOPIN-LISZT Six Polish Songs
ADRIAN SELF (b.1952) Twenty Four
POULENC (1899-1963) Les Soirées
de Nazelles (1930-36)
John Clegg's name will be familiar to those who have listened to BBC Radio
3 over the years - although I have missed his name in recent years. He studied
with Herbert Fryer and after three years at Jesus College Cambridge made
his London debut in 1951. He has toured widely. I cherish tapes of his broadcasts
of the late Howard Ferguson's piano sonata, Medtner's Idyllica and
Tragica sonatas and the Berkeley preludes.
In the rarely-encountered Chopin-Liszt song transcriptions Clegg is fully
attuned to the fragile qualities of the music: aristocratic elegance, slender
beauty, romantic sentiment and Lisztian bravura. The six songs (Chopin wrote
seventeen but Liszt transcribed only these six) are A Maiden's Wish,
Spring, The Little Ring, Bacchanal, My Joys and
Homecoming. Only in the tempestuous bass gusts of last song do you
catch yourself thinking of Liszt. Otherwise these pieces might be authentic
Adrian Self was born in 1952 and his roots are in the far South West of England.
Since 1990 he has been director of music at Cartmel Priory in the North West
of England. His preludes are dedicated to John Clegg who plays with even
greater fluency than he brings to the song transcriptions. Influence spotting
can be a bit of a dead-end game but to give you some idea of the sound of
these pieces (which were intended to act as tributes to various composers)
I noted Chopin and Medtner (Preludes 15, 23), Bach (2, 14), Shostakovich
(3, 18, 24), Ivor Gurney (4) and Debussy (4, 13). There is a deeply touching
soliloquy (Prelude 6) humming with deep bell tones. The tenth prelude rocks
with a gruff power while a benevolent light plays sweetly in Finzian gravitas
over preludes 11, 17 and 22. No. 12 is murderously serious in and No. 19
breathes an air of unconfident sentiment - totally captivating. Other highlights
include the jazzy impatience of No. 20 and the dewy spray of No. 21.
The Poulenc suite is far from common fare. These eight portraits of friends
gathered around Poulenc's 'adopted aunt's' house in Nazelles. The music is
varied and subtle, aristocratically rippling, subtly perfumed and exotic
(overtones of Szymanowski in Cadence), coquettish (Le comble);
classically alert in the manner of Beethoven in La Suite; floatingly
romantic (Chopin-in Gallic repose) in Le Contentement and L'alerte
vieillesse, Satie and Shostakovich meet Parisian night life in Le
Gout. In the Finale regal nobility brushes with Chopin, Iberian
temperament, Lisztian display, carefree joy all dusted over with a touch
(but only a touch) of sentimentality.
A lovely disc. I detected only that Clegg seemed more at ease in the Self
and the Poulenc. The piano sound is decently sonorous. Satisfactory notes.
This disc will appeal to those who have invested in Lionel Sainsbury's piano
CD. The Self Preludes will be of great interest to the pianists Jack Gibbons
and Phillip Dyson.
NOTE: Adrian Self will have his 24 preludes for solo piano premiered at Cartmel
Priory, near Lancaster, England on 30 September 2000. Adrian is Director
of Music at the Priory. The pianist is Lancaster-based John Clegg.
(for long a member of the British Music Society - as also is his father,
the author, conductor and composer, Geoffrey Self)
John Clegg has recorded the complete piano music of Alan Rawsthorne for the
Paradisum label and I hope that we will be able to review that next month