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