This is an important disc although many will feel the Busoni preludes are
both unoriginal and uninspiring. But the Arthur Bliss is very welcome.
I will comment briefly on each of the Busoni preludes.
1 in C. Simple in design, or amateurish, with a wearisome use of pedal notes.
2 in A minor. This has a Spanish or barcarolle flavour. The right hand melody
should have been brought out more. It has a curious mixture of style but
an agitated middle section with too many trills.
3 in G is an insipid piece and takes a long time to get nowhere.
4 in E minor is a dance movement but rather eccentric. Interesting, nevertheless.
5 in D seems a little out of control at times and stutters badly. Poorly
6 in B minor is a chorale with the occasional brave harmony.
7 in A is a gigue and a deliberate imitation of Bach and has a compositional
stutter just before the end.
8 in F sharp minor has a wearisome ostinato and lacks originality. You feel
you have heard it before.
9 in E. The very beginning of this piece reminds you of a famous piece.
10 in C sharp minor is marked vivace ed energico but it isn't ...
and it is rather poor music.
11 in B has a striking resemblance to another piece and is very slight.
12 in G sharp minor is an attractive reverie with a curious Victorian salon
13 in F sharp recalls Schumann and his finger-tripping as in his Arabesque,
14 in E flat minor is funereal and takes a while to get going. Its indebtedness
to Liszt is obvious.
15 in D flat is a gentle salon piece but of no great impact.
16 in B flat minor is stormy and dark but also stutters. This hesitancy is
disconcerting and not having the music in front of me I cannot be sure it
is always the way the music is written.
17 in A flat has the same worrying features. As one of my music professors
said, "Music with hiccups needs a smooth intake of water."
18 in F minor is rather nondescript.
19 in E flat is the best prelude so far with its slight sparkle.
20 in C minor is rather jumbled and, like number 2, has a left hand which
is too dominant.
21 in B flat. As with number 10 this is a very poor piece and mainly note
spinning. Terribly unoriginal as proved in the middle section where Bach
22 in G minor is a fugue and again Bachian. Having said that, it is a good
fugue, as fugues go.
23 in F is very brisk in the main and introduces more eccentricity. Once
I thought of Dave Brubeck.
24 in D minor is marked presto but it isn't. It is another piece with
little or no substance.
It is good to have this work available. It is of historical interest.
And so to the Arthur Bliss Piano Sonata of 1952 which is vastly superior
and has some fascinating forays into 'a modern style'. The slow movement
is akin to a soliloquy, although a chaconne, which is a good contrast
to a somewhat disappointing first movement. The finale has a stunning
start but I am not convinced that the performance is always controlled. I
have heard the piece played better. Nonetheless it has to be remembered that
it is an exceptionally difficult piece to play ... after all, it is not Mozart
or Schubert and I would love to be able to play it.
I am pleased to know that Trevor Barnard's recording of the Bliss Piano
Concerto is due for release by Divine Art shortly. This is probably the
best British piano concerto in the tonal tradition ... a truly splendid work
and I am looking forward to it.