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The Maiden’s Prayer and other gems from an old piano stool
Christian SINDING (1856-1941) Pieces, Op. 32 – No. 3, Rustle of Spring (1896) [2’46].
Tekla BADARZEWSKA (1834-61) The Maiden’s Prayer (1851) [4’14].
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904) Humoresques, B187 – No. 7, Humoresque in G flat (1894) [2’56].
Selim PALMGREN (1878-1951) Spring, Op. 57 – No. 4, May Night (1907) [2’44].
Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1925) Pieces, Op. 15 – No. 1, Serenata (c1875) [1’56].
Anton RUBINSTEIN (1829-94) Melody in F, Op., 3 No. 1 (1852) [3’23].
Ignacy Jan PADEREWSKI (1860-1941) Humoresques de concert, Op. 14 – No. 1, Minuet in G (1887/8) [4’00]
Domenico PARADIES (1707-91) Sonate di gravicembalo – Sonata No. 6, Toccata in A (1754) [2’39].
George Frederic HANDEL (1685-1759) Suite No. 5 in E, HWV430 – Air and Variations, ‘The Harmonious Blacksmith’ (1720) [4’45].
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Minuets, WoO10 – No. 2, Minuet in G (1795) [2’11].
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-47) Songs without Words, Book 5, Op. 62 – No. 6, Spring Song (1844) [2’30].
Peter TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-94) Morceaux, Op. 40 – No. 2, Chanson triste (1878) [2’38].
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957) Pieces, Op. 75 – No. 5, Kuusi (The Spruce Tree) (1914) [2’40].
William MASON (1829-1908) Silver Spring, Op. 6 (c1850) [4’52].
Albert PIECZONKA Danses de salon – No. 1, Tarantella in A minor (date unknown) [2’31].
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907) Lyric Pieces, Book 5, Op. 54 – No. 4, Nocturne (1891) [3’49].
Victor HERBERT (1859-1924) La Coquette – Valse brillante (1900) [3’02].
Zdeňek FIBICH (1950-1900) Moods, Impressions and Reminiscences, Op. 41 – No. 14, Poème (1892/3) [1’21].
Ede POLDINI (1869-1957) Marionettes – No. 2, Poupée valsante (1895) [3’15].
Edward MACDOWELL (1860-1908) Woodland Sketches, Op. 51 – No. 1, To a wild rose (1896) [1’53].
Joachim RAFF (1822-82) Pieces, Op. 157 – No. 2, La Fileuse (1870) [4’02].
Ethelbert NEVIN (1862-1901) Water Scenes, Op. 13 – No. 4, Narcissus (1891) [1’57].
Alfred GRÜNFELD (1852-1924) Romanze, Op.4 5 No. 1 (c1914) [5’09].
Marie August DURAND (1830-1909) Première Valse (before 1870) [4’00].
Philip Martin (piano).
Rec. All Saints Church, East Finchley, London, on October 23rd, 2002. [DDD]
HYPERION CDA67379 [77’10]
This recording was the idea of Ted Perry (1931-2003), founder of Hyperion. Jeremy Nicholas, who contributes the excellent booklet notes, also adds a brief but moving tribute to Perry. The idea of a compendium of all of those piece which, indeed, one might find in an old piano stool or which one might also have attempted in an amateur capacity is a lovely thought, and to hear such favourites as Sinding’s Rustle of Spring played as sensitively as this is a privilege indeed (I still remember being introduced to this piece courtesy of ‘Your Hundred Best Tunes’).

Philip Martin seems to be the ideal choice of pianist and the recording team of producer Martin Compton and engineer Julian Millard do not let him down – the piano sound is warm yet detailed. If it is yet true that nearly one hour 20 minutes can seem a long time in one go (given that there is only one piece of over five minutes’ duration), it is a tribute to Martin and Hyperion’s programming that the attention hardly wanders and that delights seem to fall over one another to compete for the attention. Some works will be so familiar they are almost part of the collective unconscious (Handel’s Harmonious Blacksmith, for example, unapologetically played here in Romantic style on a Steinway grand; or Dvořák’s Humoresque, here wittily cheeky with a lovely contrasting section), still others bring with them the delight of happy first acquaintance.

Palmgren’s delicate Northern perfume seeps out of May Night. Palmgren, incidentally, was also championed by the likes of Moiseiwitsch and Eileen Joyce and his piece complements Moszkowski’s Serenata well. The inclusion of a work by Domenico Paradies is both clean of rendition and cleansing in effect, leading the way towards the Handel and Beethoven’s famous Minuet in G (how strange it is to hear this played cleanly and clearly).

Nice to see some Raff here, also: Jeremy Nicholas is quite correct when he writes that, ‘Of all the neglected composers featured in this collection, none is less deserving of his obscurity than Joachim Raff’. La Fileuse is lovely, full of warm harmonies and with a delightful end (it was a favourite of Vladimir de Pachmann, who recorded it twice). A pity that it rather puts Alfred Grünfeld’s Romanze in the shade, for all the latter’s suave exterior. The music of Zdeňek Fibich deserves more frequent airing, also, and the inclusion of one of the Moods, Impressions and Reminiscences is to be applauded.

Victor Herbert’s La Coquette is delightful. Fun and light, Martin plays it with a feather-light touch (Herbert’s Cello Concerto, by the way is available on Guild GMCD 7235: see review). Nice to have a female composer included, too, here in the shape of Tekla Badarzewska and her Maiden’s Prayer, from which the disc takes its title. It is a nice, homely piece and one can immediately hear why it was so popular in its time (and for quite a while after)..

Inevitable there will be at least one caveat, for one cannot please every reviewer all the time. Sibelius wrote more piano music than one might think (Naxos have issued volume after volume of it), and certainly more than any sane human being would want to hear. The reason for its obscurity is immediately aurally obvious, almost no matter which piece one picks, so perhaps one should be grateful there is only one work included and that it only lasts 2’40.

Philip Martin is a pianist of great intelligence and much innate musicality; and the excellence of the recording is the final element in the equation for success. Martin has also put down six volumes of Gottschalk piano music for Hyperion. If he plays them half as well as the pieces on this disc, they must surely be winners.

Colin Clarke

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