William Vincent WALLACE (1812-1865)
Chopinesque : Polonaise de Wilna (pub. 1868) [4.20]
* Nocturne mélodique (1847) [6.33]
La sympathie (1844) [3.36]
Le zephyr (1848) [4.56]
Souvenir de Cracovie (1864) [3.33]
Woodland murmurs (1844) [2.29]
Le chant des oiseaux (1852) [4.20]
Valse brillante (1848) [5.26]
Au bord de la mer (1849) [6.04]
Varsovie (1852) [4.45]
Nocturne Op.20/1 (1852) [1.52]
Souvenir de Naples (1854) [4.39]
La brunette (1853) [5.24]
Innocence (1850) [1.49]
Victoire (1862) [2.31]
La grace (1850) [3.28]
Grande Fantaisie La Cracovienne (1842) [13.34]+
Rosemary Tuck (piano); *Richard Bonynge (piano);
+ Tait Chamber Orchestra/Richard Bonynge
rec. Forde Abbey, Chard, Somerset, *6 March 2011 and 17-18 October 2011: +St Paul’s, Knightsbridge, London, 24 November 2011
NAXOS 8.572776 [79.20]
The Irish composer William Vincent Wallace is not be confused with the Scottish composer William Wallace, who is credited with writing the first British symphonic poems including one - even more confusingly - entitled Sir William Wallace. I used the word ‘credited’ with caution: many of the ‘concert overtures’ of earlier British composers such as Corder, Macfarren, Elgar and even Sterndale Bennett are symphonic poems in all but name.
The Irish Wallace, with whose music we are concerned here, is remembered nowadays for writing the opera Maritana. This gained a major reputation in the nineteenth century as part of the so-called ‘English Ring’ which also comprised The Bohemian Girl by the Irishman Balfe and the Irish subject The Lily of Killarney by the Austrian Benedict. By the way, when are we going to get a complete recording of The Lily of Killarney, probably the best of these three scores?
Wallace also wrote a great deal of piano music, mainly for himself to play on his many concert tours. This is the third CD from Naxos to contain selections from his massive output. This has been subtitled Chopinesque, presumably because many of the forms employed are those familiar from the music of Chopin. It has to be said that Wallace even at his best cannot begin to rival Chopin on top form. The earlier Naxos CDs by Rosemary Tuck concentrated on his Celtic Fantasies and his Operatic Fantasies and Paraphrases, and the works on those discs were to a considerable extend redeemed by their often imaginative treatment of melodies by other hands. There are also two Cala CDs by Tuck (review review) which gives us more of his folksong arrangements and a considerable number of other original compositions. This is therefore the fifth CD of piano music by Wallace from Tuck. Where the composer is thrown back on his own inspiration it is a bit thinner on the ground than in her previous compilations. There is nothing here that is meretricious or cheap, but nothing that is an outstanding masterpiece either.
To do him justice, Wallace would never have pretended to be a great composer, at any rate in these piano pieces. He was principally concerned to provide original music for his recitals, and in that he succeeds admirably. There is one piece which could feasibly be regarded as pretty well as good as Chopin, even if not Chopin firing on all cylinders: the ‘valse brillante de salon’ entitled La Brunette which apparently was also published in America as Lotus leaf - such confusion cannot have helped his music to get itself established. This has a really good swinging waltz tune of considerable character. Otherwise some fairly standard material is put through its virtuoso paces, and Rosemary Tuck does it all proud. Richard Bonynge takes over as pianist for the polonaise De Wilna, but this is a rather different piece only published after the composer’s death and apparently intended as a sketch for an unfinished (or unpublished) opera.
Here we also get, for the first time, an orchestral piece by Wallace in the form of the ‘grande fantaisie’ La Cracovienne. Actually what we get is a reconstruction of the score; it was originally written for piano and orchestra, but was only published in a piano solo version and presumably the original is lost. Jeremy Silver provides a suitably period accompaniment for the piano, with some nice woodwind touches which actually sound uncannily like Wallace’s decorous scoring in his operas. This is fun piece that might well attract pianists anxious to expand their concerto repertoire, and Bonynge conducts with sympathy and flexibility. One should note that Tuck has already recorded this piece in its piano solo version on one of her Cala collections.
An interesting sidelight on a Victorian composer, then, but hardly essential material for the general listener. On the other hand, those who have enjoyed Tuck’s previous exploration of this repertory will adore it. The recording is nicely balanced, the performances are enjoyable, the notes by Peter Jaggard are detailed and informative. The disc certainly gives full measure.
Paul Corfield Godfrey
Those who have enjoyed Tuck’s previous Wallace explorations will adore these enjoyable performances.
see also review by Raymond Walker