Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Piano Sonata (1936)
Six Preludes (1945)

Piano Sonata (1963)

Two Waltzes (1953)
Piano Sonata (1962)
Tatjana Rankovich (piano)
rec 6, 21 Jan 1998, 29 Apr 1998, 24 June 1999
PHOENIX PHCD 143 [70.32]
Amazon USA

We are already used to praising John McCabe, Eric Parkin, Margaret Fingerhut, Ralph Holmes and Raphael Wallfisch for their dedication to recording and live performing rare British music. Tatjana Rankovich will, I hope fall into the same category. This collection of substantial items promises well indeed. Ms Rankovitch is a most fluent and technically capable pianist with no shortage of brilliance thankfully matched with an expressive vein. We also have Phoenix (an unsung or under-sung label - we hardly ever hear about them - why?) to thank for their valour in recording music which is hardly safe 'box-office'. Phoenix have even resisted the temptation of adding some Gershwin as is the misguided habit in other areas where rarer American material is offered on disc or in concert.

Creston's sonata dates from six years before his first symphony. It is a work of baroque motoric rhythms let contagiously loose and offset by a lyrico-romantic facility heard to smashing advantage in the Andante. The varied but unassuming preludes came after the second symphony. Vittorio Giannini's name is much associated with his third symphony written for windband. In fact the second, fourth and fifth symphonies are as deserving of attention and are deeper more impressive works. The Piano Sonata is a work of dramatic mien and can be bracketed with Howard Ferguson's sonata for solo piano. In the Allegro non troppo ignorant armies clash by night. The molto adagio is a hooded sidling jazzy night exequy with a subtle fragrance of Gershwin. The finale feels the insistent pressure of dire and urgent activity. Rankovitch plays like one possessed by the percussive insistence of the music. This should appeal to anyone who appreciates Nancarrow's music for player piano.

Nicholas Flagello is first represented by two waltzes. The first is tender and Ravelian; the second desperately busy like over-wound and gabbling machinery. Flagello recycled these works into his 1965 suite for harp and string trio and in the scherzo of Symphony No. 1. The Sonata is not as 'purple' as the Giannini of one year later. It is tougher: Gothic in its clangour, angular and melodramatic with little rushing rivulets of notes. The Rubato central section is romantic strenuously attitudinal music - striking, dark and gestural. Allegro vivace quanto possibile is a pretty clear incitement to speed and Rankovitch needs no second bidding. The movement has all the desperately stony excitement of a wild machine freed from its governor.

The release is helpfully illuminated by Walter Simmons' reliably detailed and extensive notes

Recommended to devotees of the Italian neo-romantic vein in American music. We need to hear more of Ms Rankovitch preferably in pioneering repertoire of this type.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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