Off the Beaten Path
Muzio CLEMENTI (1752 – 1832)
Sonata in B flat “Magic Flute”, Op.24/2 [12.38]
Benjamin GODARD (1849 – 1895) Au Matin, Op. 83 [4.34]
Benjamin GODARD (1849 – 1895), arr. S. Rabinof Second Valse [2.33]
Sigismund THALBERG (1810 – 1871) Nocturne in B major, Op 15 BIS [5.33]
Ignaz MOSCHELES (1794 – 1870) La Petite Babillarde, Op.66 [5.33]
Fritz KREISLER (1875 – 1870), arr. Godowsky Rondino on a Theme of Beethoven [2.30]
Franz LISZT (1811 – 1886) Die Lorelei [6.04]
Carl CZERNY (1791 – 1857) Etude Mélodieuse, Op.795/3 [2.11]
Nicolai MEDTNER (1880 – 1951) Piano Sonata in C minor, “Fairy Tale”, Op.25/1 [14.23]
Jean SIBELIUS (1865 – 1957) Romance, Op 24/9 [3.36]
George GERSHWIN (1898 – 1937) arr. A. Zizzo Novelette in Fourths [2.26]
George GERSHWIN (1898 – 1937) arr. S. Rabinof Melody No. 40 [5.43]
Ian Hominick (piano)
rec. September 2007, Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oxford, Mississipi
MSR CLASSICS MS1341 [67.46]

This is a charming disc. On it Canadian pianist Ian Hominick has included nearly a dozen lesser-known pieces. These are neglected works which he slips into his recital programmes. An obvious problem is that in a recital listeners get to hear one or two pieces placed carefully in contrast with better known repertoire, whereas here we have an entire disc of rarities. But Hominick has cast his net widely, creating a sequence which has a nice variety of names and styles. A linking theme between many of the pieces is that their composers were often piano virtuosi themselves.

Hominick starts with a piano sonata by Clementi, the piano virtuoso contemporary of Mozart. Today Clementi is regarded as the father of modern piano playing. Here Hominick gives us his Sonata Op. 24 no. 2. It was written ten years before Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute, but remarkably the work’s opening Allegro includes a motto theme remarkably like one in the overture to Mozart’s opera. I’m afraid that once this novelty was over, I found the sonata charming but a little thin compared to those by Mozart.

He follows this with two pieces by Benjamin Godard: short pieces which rely quite heavily on the composer’s melodic facility and charm. Au Matin is all Godard, but Second Valse is Godard arranged Rabinof. I was unclear as to how much was Godard and how much was Rabinof. But I suppose it doesn’t really matter in a charming little piece like this.

Sigismund Thalberg was a piano virtuoso from another generation, being one of Liszt’s main rivals. Here we have his expansive Nocturne in B Major, a work highly reminiscent of Faure’s essays in the same genre.

Ignaz Moscheles is one of those names that crops up. He was a pianist, composer and teacher, settled in London in 1821, played the music of Bach and Beethoven and taught Mendelssohn … and Thalberg. His own music contains echoes of the romantics but is firmly rooted in the classical tradition that he was brought up in. La Petite Babillarde is a dynamic perpetuum mobile which Hominick plays neatly and brilliantly.

The Rondo on a Theme of Beethoven may or may not be based on a theme by the great man, but here Godowsky’s transcription of Kreisler’s original is full of charm. Luckily Hominick follows it with something more substantial, Liszt’s transcription of his own song Die Lorelei - in fact one of four transcriptions he did. The piece has wonderfully Tristan-ish echoes.

Carl Czerny is another of those names that you encounter from time to time, mainly because generations of piano pupils have learned using his pieces. He was Beethoven’s most famous student and is here represented by Etude Mélodieuse, a flowing, melodic piece with hints of many other composers.

Then we get another substantial piece, this time a piano sonata by Nicolai Medtner. Medtner trained at the Moscow Conservatoire, but made a living touring the West as a piano virtuoso. His Fairy-Tale Sonata was written in 1911 and is influenced by Russian folk-lore. In fact, listening to the piece you could not help but think that there was some sort of underlying narrative.

Sibelius’s Romance is one of his myriad piano pieces. It possesses none of the structural grit of his major works but certainly has a delightfully plaintive melodic cast.

Finally we have a pair of Gershwin’s piano solos. They are given in arrangements that take Gershwin’s music into realms that the composer never visited, but delightfully so.

This is not necessarily a disc to be listened to in one sitting. It is more something to be dipped into; to try out another of these charmingly unfamiliar bon-bons … and a few grittier pieces. Ian Hominick shows himself adept at all the different styles that the programme requires. He has recorded a disc of Thalberg’s music too, so it comes as no surprise that he plays with a secure and enviable technique.

Robert Hugill