> Wallace Celtic Fantasies [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- Sept 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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William WALLACE (1812-1865)
Celtic Fantasies

The Minstrel Boy and Rory O’More
The Bard’s legacy
Coolun, Gary Owen and St Patrick’s Day
The Meeting of the waters and Eveleen’s Bower
Melodie Irlandaise
Annie Laurie
Roslin Castle and A Highland lad my Love was born
Impromptu on Somebody and O, for Ane and Twenty Tam
The Keel Row
Ye Banks and Braes
Charlie is My Darling and The Campbells are Comin’
My Love is like a Red, Red Rose and Come o’er the Stream, Charlie
Comin’ Thro’ the Rye
The Last Rose of Summer
Kate Kearny and Tow, Row, Row
Robin Adair
Auld Lang Syne and The Highland Laddie

Rosemary Tuck, piano
Recorded Large Room, City Hall, Wexford October 2001
CALA-UNITED CACD 88042 [78’32]


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Romantic accretions have clung to the memory of William Wallace. His precocious wanderings from Waterford, Scandal in Sydney (£2,000 debt – bad enough now but this was 1838 - and a deserted wife and child), voyage to Santiago and wanderings to New Orleans, New York, return to London and premature death near Paris in 1865. The Wallace Apocrypha would fill a fair sized volume and would doubtless include tales of his military action against the Maoris. If there was something of the Romantic flâneur about Wallace his paradoxical energy resulted in a sheaf of compositions, few of which have survived him, but which include most famously Maritana. He also wrote most gracefully for the piano, at which instrument, as with the violin, he was adept (his virtuoso braggadocio included giving a concerto on both instruments in the same concert). But these Celtic Fantasies take their expected place in the mid century salon style though several are spiced rather more taxingly for the concert hall and a tough technique. Fantasies, theatrical Introductions, crypto-operatic paraphrases, Concert Impromptus, contractions and medleys of popular tunes with modulatory linking passages were the province of Wallace’s charming pieces. To this end he employed a veritable battery of pianistic effects including copious broken octave passages, mini cadenzas, variational form, transcriptive passages and a range of flourishes, roulades and decorative elements to flesh out the essentially simple melodies.

The Minstrel Boy has a Grand Fantasie introduction, swirling with Romantic curlicues before the tune is simply and charmingly stated balanced by the lighthearted brio of the associated Rory O’More. The Bard’s Legacy explores some felicitous harmonies in the salon mode with sensitive filigree treble traceries and pert left hand "fill in" accompaniment. A Beethovenian gravity announces Coolun – followed by delicacy and winsomeness; St Patrick’s Day is pleasingly cocksure. Contrastive variety was a Wallace trademark in these pieces and so the insistent, decorative charm of The Meeting of the Waters is immediately contrasted with the rollicking Eveleen’s Bower. The Melodie Irlandaise is a barcarolle, which muses alluringly full of gorgeous melody. He subjects The Keel Row to considerable variation but presents Ye Banks and Braes with touching simplicity albeit one strong on left hand scales and arpeggios. His grandiloquence appears again in the oratorical introduction to Charlie is My Darling – a series of, as it were, cavalier technical devices pushing the piece toward absurdity; Beethovenian fractiousness, broken octaves, decorative runs. His extensive, circumlocutory and teasing introductions – a sort of classical salon forerunner of Errol Garner – reappear in My Love is like a Red, Red Rose. The pattern is thus set for many of these pieces; theatrical and expectant introductions, pregnant with flourishes followed by the tune itself which may be then subjected to increasingly complex technical mutation or variation, a modulated linking few bars and a generally more relaxed and athletic piece to cleanse the air. So it is with Kate Kearny and Tow, Row, Row – which last piece is life affirming and vibrant. Robin Adair, an Impromptu de Concert was written for Arabella Goddard who was first the pupil and later the wife of J W Davison, music critic of the Times. It’s touching to think that Goddard, a RPS Gold Medallist in 1871 and who was once described as being addicted to Sterndale Bennett’s Concertos – is that possible? – survived until 1922. This is certainly a testing teaser – a glittering piece to stretch the technique. Goddard, who customarily played without music, probably enjoyed the challenge.

To all these challenges and more the talented Rosemary Tuck is fully equipped. She relishes the demands, is stylistically apt and full of colour, vivacity and lyricism. How appropriate that in a pleasing acoustic in the Large Room at City Hall one of Waterford’s most quixotic, far travelled, and talented sons has come home at last.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Raymond Walker


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