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Phillip Dyson – By Special Request
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Sonata in E flat major K282 [14:27]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata in C minor Op.13 Pathetique (1798-99) [19:55]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Impromptu in F sharp minor Op.36 (1839) [6:37]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Ballade No.2 in B minor [16:44]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Images; Reflets dans l’eau (1903-07) [5:53]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Rhapsody in G minor Op.79 No.2 (1879) [6:57]
Phillip Dyson (piano)
rec. Maltings Theatre, Berwick upon Tweed, February 2004 
MARIGOLD 011 [70:33]

I last reviewed Phillip Dyson in his role as an exponent of Billy Mayerl. On that occasion, a live South Bank concert, he also took on Morton Gould, Zez Confrey and Gershwin, three other specialities of his, among others. As far as the discography is concerned it’s very much as a Mayerl man that we know Dyson but of course he was classically trained, studying with Colin Horsley, and has retained those classical chops. Devotees of Malcolm Arnold will know that the late composer was knocked out by Dyson’s playing of the Fantasy on a Theme of John Field. Dyson has also recorded the composer’s Stolen Face Ballade film music for Chandos, at Arnold’s specific request.

This is putatively at least a “By Request” programme of tried and tested favourites, ones with which Dyson feels entirely comfortable. His Mozart is attractive though there are moments of worry. His caesuri in the first movement sound a touch over done and he’s inclined to be a rather assertive Mozartian in the Minuets. The finale is thoroughly masculine, quite quick, though inclined to be a touch bland when set beside, say, Joyce Hatto.

His Pathétique begins with bold, outsize gestures, public and rhetorical. Dynamics are pushed to the limit in parts of this performance, especially when he’s been recorded at so high a level. The pulse tends to be minutely disrupted in the slow movement – which he takes at an Arrau not a Kempff tempo - and so the music never quite ideally unfolds with optimum eloquence.

His Chopin Impromptu is again caught very close and tightly so that it’s never properly intimate. He plays with straightforward control, animating things with a powerful left hand. Maybe the central section is too drivingly loud and powerful. The Brahms Rhapsody is certainly the epitome of power but whilst the left hand sculpts plenty of detail and the lyric sections are engagingly done there are moments when things are rather static and deliberate; occasionally power becomes aggression. There are also examples of his sensitive Debussy playing and a long and involving Liszt – perhaps an unusual choice in the context of this recital.

As he notes, a strictly classical recording has been a long time coming, so fans of this engaging pianist can sample his wares via the Marigold address above or through Dyson’s own website.

Jonathan Woolf


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