Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Two Yuletide Pieces
Poèmes Erotiques
Three Miniatures
Three Etudes
For the First Time
Slumber Song

Thomas Labé (piano)
NAXOS 8.559047 [75.39]

Hanson revelled in the orchestral pantone under the influence of his teacher Respighi. However there is a substantial body of music for solo piano. This is the first disc to delve into this area.

The period 1918-20 is well represented. The writing will appeal to anyone who warms to Rachmaninov. The style in Poemes Erotiques, Reminiscence from Three Miniatures and in the Sonata (completed by Labé) is bathed in a romantic warmth without Debussian heat-haze. Medtner lovers, for example, will want this disc and similarly anyone who has a penchant for the boiling throes of the Piano Sonatas of Liszt or the late Howard Ferguson. There is a Debussian steadiness in Lullaby and Longing from Three Miniatures. Reminiscence and Studio ritmico and Studio melodico (latter from Three Etudes) are full of pre-echoes of the Nordic and Romantic Symphonies.

Impressionistic mist hangs in wreathes over some pages of Poema idillico (typical Medtnerian title) pointing in the direction taken by that other American master, Charles Tomlinson Griffes in The White Peacock. With these pieces we say farewell to an era and resume with Hanson's piano arrangement of his orchestral suite For the First Time: 12 picturesque mini-movements (2.58-0.46) Though dating from 1963 these might almost be one of those suites of mood music used for accompanying silent films. In fact some of the pieces are distinctly 'modern' with the disconcerting presence of moderate dissonance but these things are relative. I wonder if Hanson was cocking a snook at Shostakovich in the Kikimora and Tamara movements.

Slumber Song is an item of juvenilia: a Chopin pastiche. Enchantment reminded me of Moeran's In the Mountain Country and Bax's Mountain Mood.

The Two Yuletide Pieces are a degree or so more relaxed and the March Carillon (second of the two) is much lighter.

Good notes by Labé.

The disc would have been stronger yet if it had ended on Enchantment rather than the pallor of Slumber Song.

The disc is certainly attractive and well worth the attention of piano fanciers, confirmed Hansonians and those sympathetic to Rachmaninov's Preludes and Etudes Tableaux.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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