Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

(1883 - 1950)
Valses Bourgeoises
Fantaisie espagnole
Trois morceaux

Constant LAMBERT
(1905 - 51)
Trois pièces nègres pour les touches blanches

(1905 - 71)
The Creel
William WALTON
(1902 - 83)
11 Duets for Children
Philip LANE
Peter Lawson and Alan MacLean
Recorded in the Princess Hall of The Cheltenham Ladies College, 1994
ALBANY TROY 142 [67.38]
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This is a delightful disc; it brings together some excellent but comparatively rarely heard music by four highly individualistic composers. Philip Lane, who also wrote the helpful booklet notes for the disc, is the least well known, and it's interesting to notice that he was born in the year of Berners' death, and a year before that of Lambert. The fact that Lane's piece is so strongly related to their music in style gives the programme a pleasing unity.

The first three works on the disc, all by Lord Berners, demonstrate that he was so much more than simply a gifted dilettante. The French influence is clear in the Valses Bourgeoises; the third one, Strauss, Strauss et Straus, is a superb piece of pastiche, very close to Ravel's La Valse, though without the sinister undertones. The title of the first of the Trois Morceaux, Chinoiserie, acknowledges its deliberately artificial orientalism. We have here three brilliant parodies of so-called 'national' styles - Chinese, Austrian, Russian - and the writing for the piano is delicious in its resourcefulness. The last one, Kasatchok, is virtually a mini Danse Sacrale.Lambert's Overture is a relentlessly contrapuntal piece, which eventually became an orchestral work. It sounds convincing in this medium, which allows the linear writing to be heard with the utmost clarity. The Trois pièces nègres pour les touches blanches (Three Black Pieces for the White Keys) are much more relaxed and relaxing, with a strong jazz influence in the Aubade. The Siesta has, as you might expect, Spanish overtones, while the concluding Nocturne is irresistibly Latin American in inspiration. The full title of the Rawsthorne work is The Creel, Suite for piano duet after Izaak Walton. Thus each of the very brief movements describes a fish; the grand first movement gives us the 'mighty Pike', followed by a quicksilver fugue, reminiscent of Shostakovich, for the Sprat. The dreamy third movement describes the queenly Carp, while the fourth captures the 'Leap and Summersault of the Salmon'. Tiny, unassuming pieces of deceptive artistry from a much undervalued composer.

The Walton Duets for Children are essentially teaching material, but are nevertheless attractive in their melodious simplicity. In fact these and the Rawsthorne make an excellent foil to the sophistication and sarcasm of Berners and Lambert. Lane's breezy Badinages make an entirely appropriate conclusion to this cunningly devised and highly entertaining disc.

Lawson and MacLean duet superbly, obviously enjoying themselves yet meticulous in ensemble. The recording is ideal, except for Track 19 in the Walton pieces, where the very beginning of the first note has been cut off - a shame. Also, there are no timings anywhere on the cover or in the booklet, which is difficult to explain. Other than that, a disc to treasure.

Gwyn Parry-Jones

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