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Composers at the Piano - Bowen and Reizenstein
York BOWEN (1884-1961)
CD 1

Ten Preludes from the Set Op. 102 (1938, publ.1950) (No.1 in C major: Moderato appassionato; No. 2 in C major: Andante tranquillo; No. 15 in G major: Allegretto grazioso; No. 16 in G minor: Moderato semplice; No. 10 in E minor: Moderato, a capriccio; No. 24 in B minor: Moderato serioso e tragico; No. 7 in E-flat major: Andante amabile; No. 8 in E-flat minor: Poco lento, serioso; No. 19 in A major: Andantino con moto; No. 20 in A minor: Allegro con fuoco) [21:29]
Partita Op. 156 (1960) [9:16]
Berceuse Op. 83 (1928) [3:43]
Moto Perpetuo (III from Suite Mignonne op. 39) (1915) [2:54]
Toccata in A minor Op. 155 (1957) [4:53]
York Bowen (piano)
Franz REIZENSTEIN (1911-1968)
CD 2

Piano Sonata in B Op. 19 (1944) [26:23]
Legend Op. 24 (1949) [5:34]
Scherzo Fantastique Op. 26 (1950) [9:01]
Impromptu Op. 14 (1939) [5:07]
Scherzo in A Op. 21 (1945) [5:28]
Franz Reizenstein (piano)
rec. mono, May 1960 (Bowen); October 1958 (Reizenstein). ADD
Originally from LPs RCS 17 Bowen; RCS19 Reizenstein
Mid Price Double
LYRITA REAM.2105 [42:13 + 51:37]

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Tippett, Hamilton and Wordsworth piano music played by Margaret Kitchin
CD 1
Michael TIPPETT (1905-1998)

Piano Sonata No. 1 (1937 rev.1954) [21:42]
Iain HAMILTON (1922-2000)

Piano Sonata Op. 13 (1951) [19:29]
CD 2
William WORDSWORTH (1908-1988)

Piano Sonata in D Minor Op. 13 (1939) [28:14]
Cheesecombe Suite Op. 27 (1945) [14:03]
Ballade Op. 41 (1949) [9:14]
Margaret Kitchin (piano)
rec. mono, July 1958 (Tippett, Hamilton); April 1959, July 1960 (Wordsworth). ADD
Originally from LPs: Tippett, Hamilton: RCS5; Wordsworth: RCS13
Mid Price Double ADD
LYRITA REAM.2106 [41:21 + 51:34]

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Berkeley and Benjamin piano music played Colin Horsley and Lamar Crowson
CD 1
Lennox BERKELEY (1903-1989)

Piano Sonata in A Major Op.20 (1945) [23:35]
Six Preludes Op.23 (1944) [11:36]
Scherzo in D Major Op. 32 No. 2 (1949) [2:11]
Impromptu in G Minor Op. 7 No. 1 [1:50]
Concert Study in E-flat Op.48 No. 2 (1955) [2:33]
Concert Studies Nos. 2, 3, 4 Op. 14 (1940) [7:38]
Colin Horsley (piano)
CD 2
Arthur BENJAMIN (1893-1960)

Pastorale, Arioso and Finale (1943) [15:05]
Scherzino (1936) [2:44]
Etudes Improvisées [14:11]
Siciliana (1936) [3:53]
Lamar Crowson (piano)
rec. mono. December 1958 (Berkeley); February 1960 (Benjamin). ADD
Originally from LPs: Berkeley RCS9; Benjamin RCS20
Mid Price Double
LYRITA REAM.2109 [49:24 + 35:58]
Experience Classicsonline



These three separately available double CD sets take us back to the earliest days of Lyrita in the early 1960s. The recordings are in mono and were made in Richard Itter's Music Room. They burn with all the crusading fervour of a most unlikely project which saw a steady stream of authoritative British piano LPs - issued during the period 1959-67. They rubbed shoulders with mono Lyrita recordings we now know from their stereo editions: Bax's Sixth (Del Mar), some of the Boult-Ireland and Bliss's Blow Meditations (CBSO/Hugo Rignold). There were however no parallel stereo tapes of these piano sessions.

REAM.2105: Reizenstein was born in Nuremberg but fled from Hitler's regime in 1933. He came to England to study with Vaughan Williams. His music shows that he was no RVW epigone. His powerful yet far from effusive style is more akin to that of his other teacher Hindemith … and to Rawsthorne. The Sonata is dedicated to William Walton. The 1949 Legend is reserved with a touch of Ravel about it. The Scherzo Fantastique is a parade of fantasticks. These together with the Impromptu and Scherzo make for an entertaining insight into Reizenstein's mercurial creative imagination.

Since 2000 York Bowen has begun to emerge from an oblivion that I had thought irreversible. Lyrita have recorded his Horn Concerto and Chandos, Dutton, Hyperion and ClassicO have wrought wonders. Most of his concertos have been recorded and very soon we will hear his grand Fourth Piano Concerto from Hyperion and Danny Driver. It is a remarkable thing that Richard Itter recorded the composer even if it was towards the end of Bowen’s life when neglect must have seemed the end of all things. We hear ten of the cycle of 24 perfectly weighted Preludes. This sequence was held in supreme esteem by that most demanding of masters - Sorabji. They are not however as dense as Sorabji's profusely stratified writing. In fact clarity is evidently Bowen's watchword. They are fantastic, flighty and far from academic and the final one (tr. 6) makes a suitably grand peroration in the manner of a Rachmaninov Etude-Tableau. It reminds us, as does No. 7, that Bowen might by some be counted as the English Rachmaninov. He vies for that honour with the still grievously unknown piano music of Roger Sacheverell Coke. You can hear the same melancholy accent in Prelude No. 20 (tr.10). The Partita is tricked out with the usual sequence of baroque movement titles but Bowen does not take the antique style adopted by Benjamin in Cotillon. Each of the five movements is suffused with florid romantic spirit although in the final gigue the antique weave shows through. The little Berceuse is serenely Gallic and imbued with peace. The Moto Perpetuo is the third movement of the Suite Mignonne and again it sweepingly doffs its hat to Sergei. The rushing gale of Toccata shows Bowen to have been a phenomenal pianist even at the age of 76. The listener is left breathless - now this is something that would transcribe well for the pianola.

REAM.2106: Tippett, Hamilton and Wordsworth are united by the performing advocacy of Margaret Kitchin (1914-2008). She championed many British composers of the 1950s Cheltenham cadre as well as the avant-garde. Tippett's First Sonata is often totally characteristic in the plangent first movement. The second is more dissonant yet finding a lyrical heart at 4:40 onwards. Tippett strains at the keyboard’s bounds with some very orchestral writing in the helter-skelter collisions of the third. The finale links to the totally characteristic first movement with many instantly recognisable trademarks. Its splintery pell-mell scree is in part perhaps inspired by Grainger.

Glasgow-born Iain Hamilton's Piano Sonata is even further out. His accommodation with dissonance is more uncompromising. That said, lyrical filaments peer out even if they frequently become icy promontories, ridges and beetling cut-glass cliffs. This impressive sonata is dedicated to Matyas Seiber. Kitchin gave the premiere in 1952. While Tippett's music has survived his death by a handsome margin Hamilton's has suffered a deadening eclipse.

This is William Wordsworth's centenary year (2008). This CD is therefore fitting, if an only modest doff of the hat. Kitchin leads us through the kindly 1938 Sonata which muses gently and seems untroubled by dark clouds. The music is lithe, tonal and contemplative sometimes with a Warlockian overcast as in the second movement. The Cheesecombe Suite was written at the end of the Second World War. Darkling gloom pervades both the Prelude and the pensive overcast tolling of the Nocturne but is dispelled by the devil-may-care angularity of the Scherzo. The little Fughetta finale comes and goes in a few turbulent moments. The Op. 41 Ballade is dedicated to Clifford Curzon as is Wordsworth's Piano Concerto. It's another example of Wordsworth mining his darkest moody inspiration. The air is heavy with tragedy - almost Medtner yet more dissonant. It is a brother to other dark British ballades - those of Ireland and Rawsthorne. All of these pieces pre-date the composer’s move in 1961 to the Scottish Highlands.

REAM.2109: We pass from Margaret Kitchin to Berkeley and Benjamin from Colin Horsley and Lamar Crowson. Berkeley's 1945 Sonata has emotional and romantic muscle and stands a little distant from the Gallic tendencies of his more mature works. It rests close to the same vicinity as Berkeley's Job, the glorious yet neglected Cello Concerto and the stormily passionate Nocturne for Orchestra – the latter in the same ball park as Barber’s Essays and all unrecorded. While not quite as wild-eyed as Howard Ferguson's Piano Sonata this is still fervent music - fervently played. The third movement Adagio is quite powerful after the deftly light touch of the Presto (II). The Six Preludes of 1944 are well known. Horsley, who also recorded the Ireland Piano Concerto for EMI, revels in the liquid pearlescence of No. 1. Many of the Preludes are quirky but full of interest - like the gawky Haydnesque No.5 - which also has a dash or two of Shostakovich. Then again you encounter romantic interludes such as the masterly Allegretto (4) and the Ireland-like final Andante - a treasure. Much the same can be said of the charming little Impromptu. Both the elbows-out 1949 Scherzo and the 1955 Concert Study have a touch of rough necromancy about them. Further back in time are three of the four 1940 Concert Studies. These are from the same era as the Cello Concerto. The Second is an obstinate obsessive piece. The Third and Fourth rush past in irritable Prokofievian motley.

Lyrita did much for Berkeley's orchestral music. As for Benjamin they provided the definitive version of the Symphony - a glory of 1940s symphonism and not to be overlooked. His piano music, in better than usual mono, is played by Lamar Crowson who also recorded Benjamin's Concerto Quasi Una Fantasia for Everest. The Pastorale, Arioso and Finale were written during Benjamin's 1940s sojourn conducting the Vancouver Symphony. It is dedicated to his friend Jack Henderson and is from the same decade as the Symphony. The music is in a romantic-impressionistic vein without the Prokofiev-like sweep of the Symphony. The Arioso carries the Rachmaninov stamp. The demanding finale is faintly jazzy. The 1936 Scherzino manages to both saunter and suggest a parade of the grotesques. The eight little Etudes Improvisées are testy, balletic, quirky, hectic, brilliantly Godowskian and explosive. The halting and subtle Siciliana brings the recital to a close.

The sound across all three sets is vintage and somewhat crumbly at the edges yet never less than communicatively vital. You must also accept a noticeable degree of analogue hiss.

Each set is housed in a single width dual case. Duration is in each case circa 90 minutes reflecting the playing times of the original LPs - one 45 minute LP per disc.

Paul Conway provides the always thorough and thoroughly readable notes. These are interspersed with valuable original notes by Berkeley (a shade technical and opaque) for his own music and by Howells for his friend Arthur Benjamin. Paul Conway's notes for Bowen are fitted in with those of Jonathan Frank and partnered with text from Eric Wetherell for the Reizenstein.

All credit to Wyastone Estate for carrying their working arrangement with Lyrita through to the last degree. These three sets appear very much against the odds. This collaboration represents an exemplar to the industry and a delight for the enthusiast and adventurous listener intent on discovery.

Rob Barnett
Special insights in pioneering recordings from the 1960s... see Full Review

ALSO AVAILABLE
SRCD.207 William Wordsworth Symphonies Nos. 2 and 3
SRCD.2217 Michael Tippett Midsummer Marriage - Opera in Three Acts
SRCD.226 Berkeley conducts Berkeley
SRCD.249 Lennox Berkeley Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2
SRCD.250 Lennox Berkeley Piano Concertos
SRCD.314 Arthur Benjamin Symphony
SRCD.1103 E.J. Moeran & Gordon Jacob Piano Music - Iris Loveridge
REAM.3112 John Ireland The Piano Music - Alan Rowlands

 

 

 

 


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