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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


The Enchanted Isle - Australia's Musical Heritage
Lindley EVANS (1895-1982)

Lavender Time [1.52]
Fragrance [5.25]
Lullaby [3.11]
Alfred HILL (1870-1960)

One Came Fluting [3.11]
Doves [2.34]
The Poet Dreams [2.49]
Valse Triste [3.59]
Dancing Faun [1.51]
Frank HUTCHENS (1892-1965)

Two Little Birds [1.51]
Sunday Morning [1.38]
The Enchanted Isle [4.18]
Cinderella [3.27]
Fairy Ships [3.46]
The Island [2.15]
Weeping Mist [4.44]
Minuet [2.39]
Miriam HYDE (b.1913)

The Fountain [2.35]
Percy GRAINGER (1882-1961)

Irish Tune from County Derry [3.11]
Roy AGNEW (1893-1944)

Rabbit Hill [1.43]
Sleeping Child [2.11]
Fairy Dell [2.02]
Starry Night [2.02]
A Country Lane [1.46]
Arthur BENJAMIN (1893-1960)

A Song with a Sad Ending [1.23]
Tamara Anna Cislowska (piano)
rec October 1996, Ron Craig's Acoustic Studio, Mittagong, New South Wales, Australia DDD
ARTWORKS AW005 [68.14]



My attention well and truly caught by Artworks’ Dance of the Wild Men and their collection of Australian music for violin and piano I had no hesitation in requesting review copies of the current disc.
The music is always pleasing in an unassuming, tuneful and fanciful vein. As a listening experience it is neither revolutionary nor challenging. It is somewhat tougher than Macdowell yet less emotionally demanding than the smaller piano essays by Bax or Ireland.
The piquant delicacy of Lindley Evans' Lavender Time is faintly Joplinesque. Billy Mayerl would have been delighted. Floral perfumes lead us to Fragrance which smiles down like a sentimental unhurried blessing, trilling and dreaming. Lullaby is paced without hurry; is not the most distinguished piece on the disc.
Alfred Hill's liquidly flowing One Came Fluting, Dancing Faun and Valse Triste are typically backward looking - elegant after the sentimental manner of Chopin and Mendelssohn - more the latter than the former. Both The Poet Dreams and Doves are more impressionistic than the other Hill pieces. I wonder if, like so many of his very short orchestral tone poems, these works also formed the basis for orchestral pieces. You can hear some of Hill’s succinct tone poems as fillers to a selection of his symphonies on Marco Polo (reviewed elsewhere on this site). The examples on this disc reminded me of William Baines’ fragrant tone poems and piano impressions including Thoughtdrift and Island of the Fey.
HutchensTwo Little Birds seems to tell some jejune nursery story of the safer and unthreatening kind. The church bells toll in soft-focus pastel tones through Sunday Morning. Nothing glares or startles. Certainly these are not Housman's 'noisy bells' though they do suggest an untroubled 'land of lost content'. The Enchanted Isle is another placid watercolour though with more eventful subtle incident painting than many of the other tracks. Cinderella is a virginal musicbox dance-suggestion in three sections - with overtones of Ketèlbey. It ends memorably with the ringing of the midnight bell. Fairy Ships and The Island ambles along in tinkling contented Debussian charm. Much the most effective and nostalgic among his pieces is Weeping Mist. A Haydn-like lightness of spirit mixed with folk-feeling is to be found in Minuet.
Agnew's Rabbit Hill has about it nothing of 'Watership Down'; instead this is a free-form jig in the folksy idiom of Moeran and Bax. Much the same applies to his Fairy Dell - all the cantilena of Here lies a most beautiful lady but none of the complexity of Delius or Patrick Hadley. The stony bell-like dramatic statements recall the solo part in Moeran's Rhapsody No. 3 for piano and orchestra His Sleeping Child is a slow-swinging lullaby - more sleepy portrait than invocation to Morpheus. Fairy Dell and Starry Night are harmonically more complicated and impressionistic though still essentially warm and intimate. There is nothing of the fearful icy stratagems of Holst's Betelgeuse or Finzi's At a Lunar Eclipse or Channel Firing. A Country Lane is closer to Hutchens than we are accustomed to from Agnew.
Miriam Hyde's The Fountain is another reflection but is much more emphatic that many of the pieces here. One gets the impression that Mlle Cislowska relishes the variety offered by this piece.
Arthur Benjamin's Song brings us a step closer to Finzi and Howells especially to Finzi.
I mentioned sentimentality in the case of Alfred Hill. To finish the anthology comes Grainger's Irish Tune - itself an exercise in the sentimental. It is presented here straight faced and with no hint of condescension.
This music making will be loved by adventurous listeners as well as professional pianists. Phillip Dyson, Jack Gibbons and Eric Parkin would find this disc an inspiringly gentle almanac of repertoire suggestions. Whichever audience those listening will find much calm and fancy in Tamara Anna Cislowska’s generous-hearted playing..
If after getting this disc you would like to hear more of this repertoire from Cislowska move forward to Artworks AW023 under the title: Dance of the Wild Men. Contrary to the title this is not a collection dedicated to the Anglo-Australian equivalents of Ornstein, Cowell and Mossolov. Instead the pacing, temperament and fantasy of this collection (drawing on the same composers) is identical with the current disc.
A word or ten for the design of the booklet and disc. Once again, as in the Dance of the Wild Men album, Andrew McKeich (who is Artworks) has used a Norman Lindsay oil for the cover and for much of the detail including the disc itself. Lindsay's style, going by this and the darkly erotic fantasy of the AW023 cover, crosses Alma-Tadema with Egon Schiele and Fuselli. In the painting 'Unknown Seas' (1928) vampire-eyed, lushly curved and explicitly detailed oceanides disport in the sea’s waves, on crags and mounted on wild-eyed sea-horses. The vitality, uncanny fantasy, mêlée and threat of these pictures is striking but not really in keeping with the innocent charms of the music.
Roger Covell's notes are helpful in scene setting but give no specifics on the music itself. I would have liked to have known when each piece was written, something about its inspiration and publication history and perhaps some background on its performance history.
In a disc of highly agreeable music the pleasure is enhanced by the long silences between tracks. This gives a chance for sonorities and impressions to fade before moving on to the next impression.
As I mentioned in my review of Dance of the Wild men AW023, I do hope that this pianist and this company can be persuaded to cut a similar swathe through parallel English piano music literature and take Greville Cooke's piano solos as the core of the collection with Farjeon, Pullein, Hinton, Coke and Thiman filling out the picture. Mlle Cislowska has made an outstandingly fine job of this selection. I am sure she would be just the right choice for an English recital.
A neglected modestly fanciful, lyrical and sentimental strand in music of the twentieth century - unassuming and gently undemanding fantasy.

Rob Barnett


AVAILABILITY

http://artworksmusic.com
Artworks Recorded Music
PO Box 115
Chester Hill
NSW 2162
Australia
Phone/fax: 61 - 2 - 9743 8990

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