Allen’s Three Pieces Op.23, completed
in 1994, are clearly influenced by the music of John Ireland and Francis
Poulenc, particularly so in the second piece D’alliance française
which pays homage to the French composer and to some of his colleagues.
The last movement Blue Wrens at Amberley obliquely refers to
John Ireland’s piano piece Amberley Wild Brooks. Allen’s
Piano Sonata No.4 Op.29, in one single movement, is quite
similar – musically speaking – to the Three Pieces Op.23
and is, according to the composer, "a conscious effort to write
in a more concentrated and concise manner".
Felix Werder’s Monograph, written for
the present recording, is a rather more serious piece in three compact
movements and one of the finest works in this collection.
Le Gallienne’s Piano Sonata was composed
in 1950-1951 during the composer’s second stay at the RCM when he studied
with the late Gordon Jacob. At that time the composer planned a four-movement
sonata. However, he allowed the first three movements to be performed
publicly and the fourth movement was apparently never written. The piece
nevertheless stands well and is quite satisfying in its present form
: a lively Scherzo framed by a sonata-form first movement and a beautifully
serene Molto lento.
Tim Dargaville’s Night Song was commissioned
in 1997 as incidental music for a play about Ned Kelly. It was originally
to be a musical depiction of Kelly’s last night in Old Melbourne Jail.
A beautiful atmospheric nocturne.
Both works by Michael Bertram belong to his early output
and "are in a style in which [he] no longer writes". The Sonatina
(1977), in three short, contrasted movements, was premièred by
Keith Humble. The Five Pieces for Piano were composed
in 1984 and are dedicated to Trevor Barnard.
Trevor Barnard is an ideal performer in this collection
of pieces with which he has a long association. Indeed, most of them
were dedicated to and/or first performed by him. No great masterpieces
here, maybe, but a very enjoyable cross-selection of accessible and
attractive works that repay repeated hearings. Very entertaining and
well worth investigating.