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CD: Atoll

Richard Farrell - Complete Recordings Volume 1
CD 1
Edvard GRIEG (1943-1907)
Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 16 (1869) [31:05]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Ballades Op.10 (1854)
Andante - D minor [4:30]
Andante - D major [6:24]
Intermezzo; Allegro - B minor [3:57]
Andante con moto - B major [7:24]
Sixteen Waltzes Op.39 (1867) [21:20]
CD 2
Edvard GRIEG (1943-1907)
Ballade in G minor Op.24 (1876) [20:14]
Popular Norwegian Melodies Op.66 (1896); No. 14 Im Ola-Thal, Im Ola-See [2:55]
No.17 Gedanken Voll ich Wandere [5:20]
Nine Lyric Pieces (1867-1901)
Arietta Op.12 No.1 [1:22]; Butterfly Op.43 No.1 [1:53]; In My Native Country Op.43 No.3 [2;33]; To The Spring Op.43 No.6 [2;27]; Valse-Impromptu Op.47 No.1 [3:16]; Melodie Op.47 No.3 [4:00]; Niels W.Gade Op.57 No.2 [3:57]; Wedding Day at Troldhaugen Op.65 No.6 [5:20]; Remembrances Op.71 No.7 [2;18]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Piano Concerto No.1 in E flat S.124 (1848 rev. 1853) [19:42]
Richard Farrell (piano)
Halle Orchestra/George Weldon
rec. 1956-58
ATOLL ACD208 [74:50 + 75:30]
Experience Classicsonline

Richard Farrell (1926-58) was a New Zealander who, like a number of pianistic confrères - Lipatti, Kapell, Mewton-Wood being just three - died tragically young. As with another casualty, Dennis Brain, Farrell died in a car crash on an English road. He was only in his early thirties. There’s a good biography of him on this site. He did however leave behind a corpus of recordings of which this is the first volume. Fittingly it’s published by Atoll which has long been active in promoting New Zealand’s musical heritage.

There are two concertos, the Liszt E flat and the Grieg. Both these appeared on a rather short lived re-release on EMI Phoenixa CDM 7637782 back in 1990. The two concertos were there coupled with the Lyric Pieces. Comparing the two transfers reveals very little difference. If you have that Phoenixa - it wasn’t a Phoenix for very long unfortunately - then you needn’t investigate this release with one important proviso; we also have some of Farrell’s Brahms recordings, as well as some of Grieg’s Popular Norwegian Melodies and the G minor Ballade. This should tip the scales especially as the booklet is so attractive and the repertoire broad.

The Grieg concerto has clarity and an intelligent unmannered approach to rubato. Weldon was always a fine musician, often more, and he accompanies well. Sometimes ensemble is not perfect, it’s true, but the playing itself is malleable and committed. Weldon avoids stodgy string pointing in the slow movement. Altogether there’s a patrician air to proceedings which wears well. The Liszt has a fine admixture of bravura and brains, as well as considerable poetic expression. Again the rapport with Weldon is a good one.

The Op.10 Brahms Ballades are here. It’s noticeable how much lighter and more reserved he is than, say, Backhaus whose famous old recordings, made pre war of some of these works, evince a titanic and gaunter profile. The waltzes Op.39 are a genial example of Farrell’s playing - he plays them perhaps with just a hint of the puckish and is nowhere near as visceral as old Backhaus. The Lyric Pieces were rather drily recorded and show Farrell’s manly, somewhat no-nonsense approach to this repertoire. Neither he nor the recording quite colour the music to its optimum advantage but once again it’s a valuable souvenir of his way with the repertoire. The Ballade has had few really satisfactory recordings over the years; the last one I heard was that by Andsnes. This one is highly proficient though it perhaps misses the reflective core of the music a little.

These minor stylistic or interpretative quibbles aside, this is a fine reclamation. The recordings were not really front rank even at the time but they sound perfectly decent. LP covers and booklet notes have been reprinted and there are photographs and a small biography of Farrell in the fine looking booklet. The two discs fit into a single CD jewel case, one on top of the other. The second volume should be worth waiting for and let’s hope some broadcasts may turn up as well.

Jonathan Woolf  


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