Richard DANIELPOUR (b. 1956)
The Enchanted Garden: Preludes
Book I (1992) [21:10]
No.1 Promenade
No.2 Mardi Gras
No.3 Childhood Memory
No.4 From the Underground
No.5 Night
Book II (2009) [28:27]
No.1 Persepolis
No.2 Surrounded by Idiots
No.3 Elegy
No.4 Lean Kat Stride
No.5 A Community of Silence
No.6 There’s a Ghost in my Room!
No.7 Winter Solstice
Xiayin Wang (piano)
rec. American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, 13-14 June 2009 (Book II) and 29-30 December 2009. (Book I)
NAXOS 8.559669 [49:37]

A few years ago Richard Danielpour’s music was reasonably well known through recordings. Then his name seemed to disappear, at least from the Europe side of the Atlantic. This release offers some reassurance since it includes a recent work composed two years ago.

In his notes the composer mentions that “this set of preludes (i.e. Book I) was inspired by my dream-life: the juxtaposition of and contrast between my experience of subconscious dreams and conscious reality. In a sense, this work is a ‘garden of the mind’”. Book I consists of five strongly contrasted preludes of which the second, Mardi Gras is overtly jazzy and the fourth, From the Underground, an animated nightmarish Scherzo. The other preludes of the set are rather more peaceful although the lengthy concluding Night is not completely untroubled.

Book II is somewhat longer and consists of seven preludes of highly contrasted character. Unlike Book I the second set refers to memories and personal experiences in the composer’s life. So, the first prelude refers to the well-known site of Persepolis visited by the composer during the year he spent in Iran with his family. Surrounded by Idiots, Lean Kat Stride and There’s a Ghost in my Room! are lively, rhythmic, jazzy pieces while Elegy was written in memory of his teacher’s companion. The fifth prelude A Community of Silence was written for John Corigliano’s seventieth birthday and is again meditative. The seventh prelude Winter Solstice, the longest of the second set, is more a miniature tone-poem evoking that Celtic Twilight dear to Bax, Moeran and Ireland. A propos Surrounded by Idiots the composer comments that “New York brings out both the best and the worst in us … but having a sense of humour about it helps.” Lean Kat Stride is a portrait of the composer’s wife Kathleen “in her more spontaneous and effusive moments” whereas There’s a Ghost in my Room! alludes to “a sort of in-house joke” about Danielpour’s apartment in New York being haunted!

Danielpour’s music is certainly not difficult although it is not necessarily easy to play. It is superbly crafted, colourful and straightforward. It never ventures into unexplored territory but is happy to stay in a broad 20th century tradition. That is what makes it so accessible and attractive.

Xiayin Wang, for whom Book II was written, plays with impeccable technique and musicality throughout and makes the best of the music. This is a really lovely disc that I enjoyed from first to last.

Hubert Culot

A lovely disc of attractive and accessible piano music.