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Fallen Leaves from an Irish Album
John FIELD (1782-1837)
Nocturne in B flat (1812)
Fantasia on Martini’s Andante op.3 (1811)
Michelle ESPOSITO (1855-1929)
Ballade op.59 no.1 Though the last glimpse of Erin
William Vincent WALLACE (1812-1865)
La Gondola op.18 Ye Banks and Braes
George Alexander OSBORNE (1806-1893)
La Nouvelle Pluie de Perles
Nocturne - Pauline (1841)
Francis PANORMO (1764-1844)
Woodland Rondo
Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924)
Toccata (1912)
Prelude (1918/21)
Waltz in A minor (1923)
Thomas Augustine GREARY (1775-1801) Aileen Aroon
Arthur O’LEARY (1834-1919)
Valse Heureuse

Philip COGAN (1748-1833)
Rondo
from Sonata op.8 no. 3
Patrick K MORAN (early 19th century) L’Oiseau
Una Hunt (piano)
rec. Castalia Hall, Callan, County Kilkenny, Ireland, February 2006
RTÉ LYRIC FM CD109 [73:45] 

 

Experience Classicsonline


The programme of this well-filled disc covers some very interesting pieces by forgotten Irish composers. I am always pleased to find a CD that introduces us to fresh works by good classical composers. The 19th century is noted for being a rich period in musical composition where inspired invention is often coupled with enchanting melody; and here the pieces are no exception. An important adjunct to community and home life, the piano provided the main means of making music accessible to all. 

Of this disc’s composers, John Field and Charles Stanford are the best known yet not for the pieces represented here. Field was instrumental in developing the romantic vein of piano composition which peaked in the 1820s with Chopin: in fact one recognizes it to be Chopinesque before Chopin ever developed his characteristic style. It is further believed that Field invented the Nocturne. Also, as he was closely associated with Clementi, his style sometimes overlaps that of Clementi. So here we have a very important Irish composer. 

O’Leary is another composer of the Chopinesque vein who studied at Leipzig yet followed the French school in style. Stanford and Esposito provide the most recent compositions in this programme with Stanford coming across as one of the most robust and perhaps least inspired. The remainder of the composers on the disc are even less well known, if at all. Panormo, Greary, O’Leary and Moran don’t appear in Grove! It is to the credit of Una Hunt and the National Library of Ireland for unearthing this fresh and interesting material. It introduces us to some superb music, fresh to the ear. 

Una Hunt’s dextrous and imaginative playing throughout is first class and brings out the life and character of the varied pieces with amazing strength. This RTÉ recording is provided with a warm acoustic, with the piano mid-focused. The notes remind us that in the 19th century, the piano was a status symbol and was often the focus of home entertainment. As the century progressed the Industrial Revolution put the ‘parlour upright’ in the reach of the nation’s improving classes. Composers would earn their daily crust by providing sheet music ‘pot-boilers’ for the increasing number of pianists amongst the masses. Stanford was a prolific composer and is here represented by pieces that come from his later period of composition, when in his sixties. 

Meriting special mention is John Field’s tranquil and delightfully engaging Nocturne that to me contains a passing resemblance to Mozart’s Andante "Elvira Madigan” and is reminiscent of falling autumnal leaves. Una Hunt teases out the emotions and colour with great skill. Esposito’s Ballade is concerto-like and more robust in strength and power, thus providing a nice contrast with the opening Nocturne. Deft finger-work in Osborne’s balletic piece, La Nouvelle Pluie de Perles and languid phrases in the dreamy Nocturne - Pauline evoke good imagery. In fact, these two pieces show that Osborne was a particularly gifted and accomplished composer. It makes me wish to explore his works further; another Lyric fm disc, CD 103, contains just Osborne’s music. He came from an extended family of Limerick cathedral organists and later became embedded in London Society as Director of the Royal Academy of Music and a sought after pianist. Composer Panormo is clearly influenced by Mozart with his enchanting Woodlark rondo. Here our pianist impresses with perfectly contoured, upper octave filigree. The unusually long rippling L’Oiseau, by an unknown Moran, turns many corners and is elegantly uplifting. 

I would have welcomed fuller notes on the composers because elsewhere I find that the Limerick-born Osborne played alongside Chopin in Paris and it appears that he had a most interesting career. The notes are provided in English.

Raymond Walker


 


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