I have rated Ian Munro highly ever since coming into
contact with his artistry when reviewing the two Tall Poppies CDs of
Arthur Benjamin's chamber music. The booklet points out that he has
played Rachmaninov 2 and 3 with the Sydney SO, recorded Sculthorpe's
Piano Concerto (I hope to have a major series of Sculthorpe reviews
from Hubert Culot in the next month or so) and has premiered works by
Sculthorpe, Vine, Elena Kats-Chernin, Roger Smalley, Andrew Ford and
Gordon Kerry. He was the pianist in the 2001 performance of Hans Werner
Henze's Requiem Piano Concerto with the Melbourne Symphony conducted
by Markus Stenz.
It is a hallmark of his mould-breaking approach that
he would be part of a risk-taking project of this type. Pianists do
like their concertos and so do concert audiences. With some notable
exceptions a non-concerto piece for piano and orchestra is likely to
have a harder task making a place for itself in concert schedules than
a piano concerto. The same pattern is seen in works for violin and orchestra.
From this point of view the very recent Graffin/Thierry Hyperion CD
grouping non-concerto French works for violin and orchestra can be seen
as a venture similar to this ABC Classics anthology.
I see no real downside at all to the two Rondos into
which Munro, Porcelijn and orchestra pitch with stylish gusto. The piano
sounds well if a shade unyielding in tone. The Beethoven in particular
is done with a wink and a humorous chuckle. The Chopin glitters and
sings - gemlike and fresh. Munro seems to be having fun and the work
has the great privilege of Mozart's lissom and pliant theme by which
to warm the listener's hands.
The Stojowski Rapsodie is the most recent work.
It is highly romantic and lightly textured in the orchestral department
as if influenced by Chausson's Poème. It gathers for some
symphonic triumphalism at 4.23. If you have been turned on to Stojowski
by the recent Hyperion disc (CDA67314) of the two piano concertos then
you won't want to be without this imaginative and meaty appendix to
The Saint-Saens Rapsodie isn't uncommon - at
least not on disc. The regional reference in the title is bound to prompt
thoughts of Joseph Canteloube's arrangements of the Auvergnat songs.
In practice I was not able to identify any in the Saint-Saëns work
although at 4.12 a villageoise character is on show. Munro is called
on for some real Lisztian prestidigitation and he delivers … with interest.
Listen to him at 4.44 and at 5.17. This sound is right out of Liszt's
First Piano Concerto and Totentanz. The work ends with an outrageous
and uproarious glissando. Politically incorrect or what!
Lastly we have Litolff's warhorse which I recall in
times of yore being variously despatched by Katin and Cherkassky. Of
course since those days Hyperion and Genesis have delivered the complete
Concerto Symphonique No. 4! Munro handles the scherzo with what
seems like joyous facility. We really must hear more of him. Come on
Hyperion how about signing up Munro for your 'Romantic Piano Concerto'
series. He would be a natural for Reginald Sacheverell Coke's six piano
concertos, Somervell's piano concerto and Normandy Variations and
Joseph Holbrooke's Second Piano Concerto Orient and his Symphony
No. 8 Dance for piano and orchestra.
The 14 pages of notes are in English only. Good work
by David Vivian Russell.
While we are waiting we should encourage Ian Munro
and ABC Classics to record Arthur Benjamin's works for piano and orchestra:
the Concertino and the Concerto Quasi Una Fantasia. This would go well
as a volume complementary to Benjamin's Romantic Fantasy for
violin, viola and orchestra and his two concertos one for each of those
two solo instruments. Other meritorious projects for Ian and ABC include
Goossens two late Phantasy Concertos. There is one each for piano
and orchestra and violin and orchestra. There should be space also for
Goossens' Lyric Interlude and the Serenade from the opera Don
Juan de Mañara.
And now for volume 2 please ... Volume 1 is an example
of a fresh and clever concept imaginatively translated into action.