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William Vincent WALLACE (1812-1865)
To My Star – Celtic Romance
La Louisiana - Waltz (1842) [4.14]
Music Murmurings in the Trees – Romance (1851) [6.07]
Mazurka – Etude (1858) [3.26]
L’Absence et le Retour - Romance suive d’une Grande Polka Brillante (1856) [9.09]
To My Star, A Mon Etoile – Romance (1844) [3.26]
La Rapidité - Second Étude de Salon (1853) [5.28]
La Force - Third Étude de Salon [6.46]
A Flower of Poland - Une Fleur de Pologne – Mazurka (1862) [3.42]
Nocturne Dramatique - Grand Nocturne (1848) [6.09]
The Empress L’Imperatrice – Waltz (1844) [2.36]
The Shepherd’s Lament - La Plainte du Berger – Idylle (1859) [3.50]
Souvenir of Spain El Nuevo Jaleo de Jerez - Danse Nationale (1856) [5.50]
The Bee and the Rose - Morceau de Salon (1844) [2.03]
Valse Militaire  [3.26]
La Cracovienne - Grand Fantasie and Variations (1842) [11.49]
Rosemary Tuck (piano)
Recorded in St Silas Church, Kentish Town, London, May 2005 
CALA CACD88044 [79.00]



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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).

Unencumbered by 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.

La Force 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 of detail.

Jonathan Woolf



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