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Sound Samples and Downloads

Percy Aldridge GRAINGER (1882-1961)
Piano Favourites
Handel in the Strand [2:46]
Bridal Lullaby [2:23]
Country Gardens [2:05]
DOWLAND Now, O now, I needs must part [4:37]
BACH Blithe Bells [3:45]
In a Nutshell: The Gum-suckers March [3:43]
My Robin is to the Greenwood gone [4:51]
Molly on the Shore [3:07]
STANFORD Four Irish Dances: A March-jig [3:14]
Irish tune from County Derry [4:04]
TCHAIKOVSKY B flat minor Piano Concerto (opening) [3:27]
Richard STRAUSS Ramble on the last love-duet in der Rosenkavalier [8:10]
Colonial Song [6:34]
Shepherds Hey [2:04]
Near Woodstock Town [2;14]
Mock Morris [3:17]
Zanzibar Boat-song * [4:36]
Childrens March: Over the Hills and Far Away * [7:06]
One more day my John (complex version) [1:56]
In Dahomey [4:06]
Martin Jones (piano)
* with Philip Martin and Richard McMahon (pianos)
rec. Wyastone Leys, Monmouthshire, April and May 1989 and January 1991. DDD.
NIMBUS NI7703 [78:05]

Experience Classicsonline




Martin Joness recordings of Percy Grainger have been gathered together into a 5-CD box set of the Complete Works, NI1767, in which form they were reviewed by Jonathan Woolf in March 2011 here but we dont seem to have reviewed this generous selection. Its all that many potential listeners will want and I see that its advertised as available again. My copy of the CD dates from 1994. Its not a reissue of a single CD from the set but a compendium of Graingers best-known works.

Let me deal with the least attractive part first: as Jonathan Woolf noted, the recording is not to everyones taste its certainly too reverberant for my liking, but it didnt get in the way of my enjoyment too much. Subscribers to the Naxos Music Library might wish to try it there first here but give it a chance: after a few tracks youll hardly notice any problem.

Just about all the likely suspects are included in the programme, together with several pieces that I would hardly have described as well-known: track 4, for example, offers Graingers take on Dowlands Now, O now, I needs must part. Its in a style far removed from the madly dancing Percy Grainger that viewers of a certain age will retain from Ken Russells film about Delius thats Grainger, that was and, though I hardly recognised Dowlands original tune from Graingers treatment, he does retain the gravity and melancholy spirit of the original.

Much the same is true of My Robin is to the Greenwood gone (track 7) the original tune is submerged in Graingers arrangement of what emerges as a fine piece in its own right. Nor is a folk tune such as Near Woodstock Town (track 15) quite the same after Graingers treatment. Mock Morris on the following track makes no pretentions to be other than Graingers own take on folk music it only sounds as if it were based on a folk tune. In many respects its more quintessentially Grainger than anything else and its brought off to perfection here.

There are several arrangements here: the next track after Dowland (tr.5) contains Blithe Bells, Graingers arrangement of Schafe knnen sicher weiden (Sheep may safely graze), though, again, Bachs original is almost lost in the latter part of the arrangement its much more Graingers own than Waltons take on the same piece in The Wise Virgins. Other tracks contain arrangements of Stanford, Tchaikovsky and Richard Strauss a characteristic Ramble on the final love-duet of Rosenkavalier.

The pop items are skilfully interwoven in the programme, starting with Handel in the Strand (track 1). Memories of George Malcolm playing this on the harpsichord are not erased but Martin Jones offers idiomatic and dextrous performances of the well-known and lesser-known works alike. Getting your fingers around the notes in a piece like the Stanford March-jig (track 9) is only half the story; the other half, which Jones contrives beautifully, is summoning an image of Grainger himself dancing to it around Deliuss garden.

On the following track were on Irish territory again in very different mood for the Tune from County Derry (alias Danny Boy). Does Jones milk the sentiment here slightly too much in the manner of those Irish tenors such as Josef Locke whom my father and grandfather worshipped? I think so, but perhaps my great-grandfathers Irish blood was simply running a little too thin by the time it reached my generation. In any case, Marc-Andr Hamelin on Hyperion is faster and less sentimental here (see below). John Pickards observation in the booklet that Graingers music shares with Bachs the fact that, no matter how slowly one plays it, it always sounds satisfying looks as if it might have been written in defence of Joness tempo for this piece.

On track 11 Grainger and Jones take on the opening of Tchaikovskys First Piano Concerto single-handed, and do so surprisingly effectively. No question of too slow a tempo here.

Only if you are likely to be put off by the recording should you need to look elsewhere. If you do, you are likely to find a 1996 recording by Marc-Andr Hamelin on Hyperion your best choice a very similar selection to that on Nimbus, on CDA66884 (CD or download in mp3 or lossless here). If anything, Hamelin is even more fleet-fingered than Jones, but theres not much to choose between them. If its the orchestral arrangements that youre looking for, look no further than the inexpensive Introduction to Percy Grainger (Chandos CHAN2029: Bargain of the Month see review), a sampler for their excellent complete series (see review), or another budget-price Chandos selection (CHAN6542, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kenneth Montgomery).

With first-class performances and excellent notes not to mention availability at a keen price direct from MusicWeb International here theres a lot to be said in favour of this single-CD selection. Dont blame me if it leads you to purchase the complete box, or if the Chandos sampler tempts you to buy some of the recordings in that series.

Brian Wilson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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