I reviewed with
admiration Rosemary Tuck’s previous volume in the Wallace
series for Cala-United. For biographical background and a
perspective on the repertoire she unearthed I should direct
you there (link).
extraneous matters we can get down to the music pure and simple.
This encompasses virtuosic roulades and simpler salon pieties,
paraphrases and waltzes, Romances and Mazurkas, Etudes, Nocturnes,
Idylls, a big Fantasie and all the expected accoutrements
of a travelling Romantic Virtuoso of Wallace’s predilections.
Much of this is frothy stuff but it all revels in the increasing
capacities of the Steinway and in a big, bold Lisztian persona
at the keyboard.
Wallace was a
travelling pictorialist, knocking off impressions of places
visited with practised speed. His La Louisiana – a
waltz, for instance, was first published in New Orleans in
1842. It mines operatic curlicues in its introduction, which
would have appealed, before opening out into the waltz. Music
Murmuring in the Trees is pretty much self-descriptive
but it’s still one of the more immediately gripping pieces
here. Descriptive and with grand rolled chords it has a real
Lisztian panache as well as considerable sensitivity, albeit
the central section is rather more conventional.
Wallace was clearly
a Chopin idolater as the Mazurka-Etude shows well enough but
for an even more explicitly – and dramatically – incisive
a view of the Chopin influence as refracted through the prism
of Wallace’s enthusiasm try L’Absence et le Retour. Published
in 1856 L’Absence investigates a Chopinesque nocturne
or two (in ethos, though actually almost paraphrasing) and
le Retour is a springy and uncomplicated Polka. There’s
also the salon romance of To My Star with its delightful
melodic profile, played here with hush and delicacy.
has a certain recitativo plus hymnal quality to it, which
gathers in declamatory power – impressive – though the cantabile
roulades of the 1848 Nocturne Dramatique go further
in ranging over three octaves. The Shepherd’s Lament
is not at all droopy – it’s actually a delightful idyll dating
from 1859 (the dates I’ve given are all dates of publication,
not necessarily composition) and this is followed immediately
by the Spanishry of the rather superficial Souvenir of
Spain - a cuff’s flying show-off piece.
Then there is La Cracovienne, the only work here originally
to have been written for piano and orchestra. It’s a big,
bold concertante piece of real and dextrous power and one
that manages to fuse lyrical restraint into the mix.
Cala has decamped
from its previous recording location to St Silas Church in
Kentish Town in London. The recording quality is not quite
as focused as previously and there’s a very slightly swirly
quality. But it manages to encompass Wallace’s infectious
and extrovert demands very satisfactorily with no great loss