Richard DANIELPOUR (b.1956)
The Enchanted Garden: Preludes for piano, Books I (1992) [21:10] and II (2009) [28:27]
Xiayin Wang (piano)
rec. American Academy of Arts & Letters, New York, 13-14 June 2009 [II]; 29-30 December [I]. DDD

This CD was recently reviewed here, and thus some of the purely descriptive details have been omitted below.

Visiting what used to be American composer Richard Danielpour's website, the visitor is now surreptitiously transported straight to the official Sony Masterworks site, where there is no longer any sign of the company's former star composer, who, as a sign of the times, has been supplanted by what is mainly a lot of crossover finery.

Like 'The Enchanted Garden' itself, the individual titling of some of the Preludes leans towards the obscure, particularly in Book II: what is the listener to expect of or understand by a work with a title like 'Surrounded by Idiots' or 'There's a Ghost in My Room!'? In fact, there is almost an over-abundance of titles: 'The Enchanted Garden' contains two Books, of five and seven Preludes respectively, each Prelude being not only numbered, but titled in what at first glance seems a wilfully zany or quaint way.

Nonetheless, Danielpour justifies his choice of labels reasonably well in his booklet notes, and in any case, the music is the important thing, and the twelve Preludes, whilst far from ground-breaking - the "American Classics" appellation is once again overstated - are varied, interesting and likely to please all but the most demanding, critical or highfalutin of listeners. Truthfully, a charge of being derivative would not be entirely unfounded - some of the Preludes do sound like a fair bit like various 20th century luminaries. But the more straightforward, pithy and audience-friendly music is, the harder it becomes for musicians to avoid such similarities. In some cases they can even work in the composer's favour.

Danielpour wrote Book II for Xiayin Wang, who gave the premiere in New York in 2009. Wang amply repays Danielpour's dedication with a fine, thoughtful performance that brings out the best in the music. Her recent recording on Chandos of some of Earl Wild's piano music was very enthusiastically received twice over - see reviews.

Sound quality is pretty good, though some background traffic noise can be faintly heard at times - nowhere in New York is safe from that particular pollution. There are also a few noises off, especially at the end of some tracks, which, though barely audible, still should not be there. Inexplicably, the final milliseconds of both Books, which end similarly with a sustained chord, are faded down abruptly, when the engineer seemingly thought no one was still listening.

The disc is unequivocally short. Danielpour has written for piano another set of three preludes, a work entitled 'Mardi Gras' and a sonata - any of these could surely have been recorded alongside The Enchanted Garden, thereby giving Danielpour's piano music further exposure and the buyer better value for money.


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Wang amply repays Danielpour's dedication with a fine, thoughtful performance that brings out the best in the music.