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Piers Lane Goes to Town
See end of review for detailed track-listing
Piers Lane (piano)
rec. June 2012, Potton Hall, Dunwich, UK
Download version: Pdf booklet; mp3, 16-bit lossless and 24/96 Studio Master 
Note: this review was also published in Download News 17.
HYPERION CDA67967 [76:08]

Hyperion have a knack for programmes such as this; for instance, I much enjoyed A Maiden’s Prayer, Philip Martin’s enchanting array of miniatures (review) and The French Album with Stephen Hough (review). Moreover, the sonics of both collections - played in a most engaging and intimate style - are well up to the high standards of the house. As usual I listened to the Studio Masters which, at £12, are slightly more expensive than the equivalent CDs. Are they worth it? Yes, past experience suggests they are, for the high-res sound on offer here is as good as it gets. Throw in an easily navigable website, cover artwork and good liner-notes and you have a very professional, well-presented package for your money.
Pianist Piers Lane presents an enticing selection of pieces, many of which could be categorised as light music/easy listening. That’s not to say they’re anodyne or without their challenges; indeed, even wistful little works such as Katharine Parker’s Down Longford Way require a certain discipline and sense of style if they are to be more than background music to a meal. Lane’s detailing here is exquisite, and the recording is warm and clear. The two Toccatas - one written especially for him - are crisply done, and while there’s a pleasing geniality to these scores they are not without an underlying rigour.
Programming is everything in such collections, and the more formal pieces are neatly interleaved with lighter, more expansive ones. John Ireland’s Ballerina pirouettes most delicately, and Lane’s judicious use of rubato ensures the music never sounds florid or self-indulgent. The poise and focus of Myra Hess’s Bach arrangement - played with symmetry and soul - is a joy to hear. Dynamics are subtly shaded and, oh, what a gorgeous, glowing piano tone. As for Mayerl’s bright-faced marigolds they nod cheerfully in the sunlight, and the lilt of the Delibes/Dohnányi waltz is a delight. Teasingly tuneful, brimming with brio and ever so slightly swoopy the latter is a real charmer.
Rachmaninov’s fragile Daisies highlights Lane’s expressive range, Zez Confrey’s Dizzy Fingers and Mark Saya’s Barcarolles his supple rhythms and wonderful sense of touch. Neither is overblown; indeed, the entire programme is perfectly executed and proportioned. Even the iconic A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square - so discreetly delivered - is as evocative as ever. Poulenc Bal fantôme is a pearl of a piece, small and beautifully formed, and Alec Templeton’s Bach goes to town and Arthur Benjamin’s Jamaican Rumba really do go with a swing and a sway.
The rest of the programme is just as seductive, from the now passionate, now gentle Tiger Tango and the dynamic contrasts of Antony Hopkins’ Variations on a well-known theme to the glittering little Arabesque by Karg-Elert and Grainger’s misty-eyed but never mawkish Derry tune. Sandwiched in between the last two is Lane’s version of Dudley Moore’s Beethoven parody, And the same to you. The irrepressible, multi-talented Moore is a hard act to follow, and while Lane is hardly a dud he’s not the impish Dud either.
I can’t possibly end on a note of equivocation, for this pianist’s easeful playing and generosity of spirit males this a must have for all pianophiles. Indeed, the combination of exemplary musicianship and top-notch sound adds up one of the best piano recordings I’ve heard this year.
Chockful of good things; Hyperion’s done it again.
Dan Morgan

Previous review: Brian Reinhart
Detailed track-listing 
Katharine PARKER (1886-1971)
Down Longford Way [2:34]
Alan LANE (1932-2002)
Toccata [4:31]
Anthony DOHENY (b. 1938)
Toccata for Piers Lane  [1:53)
John IRELAND (1879-1962)
Ballerina  [4:39]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)  arr. Dame Myra Hess (1890-1965)
Jesu, joy of man's desiring [4:03]
Billy MAYERL (1902-1959)
Marigold [2:58]
Léo DELIBES (1836-1891)  arr. Ernö Dohnányi (1877-1960)
Naila Waltz [7:29]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Daisies [2:32]
Zez CONFREY (1895-1971)
Dizzy Fingers  [1:57]
Mark SAYA (b. 1954)
Barcarolles [5:42]
Manning SHERWIN (1902-1974)  arr. Regis Danillon (b. 1949)
A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square [3:33]
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Nocturne No. 4 in C minor 'Bal fantôme' [1:36]  
Alec TEMPLETON (1910-1963)
Bach goes to town 'Prelude and Fugue in swing'  [3:04]
Arthur BENJAMIN (1893-1960)
Jamaican Rumba  [101]
Robert KEANE (b. 1948)
The Tiger Tango [3:20]
Antony HOPKINS (b. 1921)
Variations on a well-known theme [14:13]  
Sigfrid KARG-ELERT (1877-1933)
Arabesque No. 1 in G flat major 'Filigran' [2:57]
Dudley MOORE (1935-2002)
Beethoven parody 'And the same to you' [4:28]
Percy GRAINGER (1882-1961)
Irish tune from County Derry [3:38]