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CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

The Irish Piano
see end of review for track listing
Michael McHale (piano)
rec. St. Peters Church of Ireland, Drogheda, Co.Louth, Republic of Ireland, 16-18 July 2012.
RTÉ LYRIC FM CD139 [73:18]

Experience Classicsonline

This is a disc of disarmingly charming and beguiling music that exploits the unique magic of Irish music. There are times when mere words are inadequate to explain things and when it comes to the very special essence of “Irishness” that is one of those times. That that essence is as potent as I’m suggesting is borne out by the fact that some of the composers represented here were not Irish but were extremely affected by the country and its rich cultural heritage to the extent that they felt compelled to write music inspired by Ireland.
The young 29 year old Belfast born pianist Michael McHale has come up with a really interesting programme of fabulous miniatures that show the wealth of talent that came and still comes from that small island. He is a skilful arranger as well as a pianist imbued with a thoughtful approach and an ability to reveal every nuance in these brilliant little gems. Picking out favourites is almost impossible and though the phrase “they’re all my favourites” doesn’t really make much sense I’m sure you know what I mean or will do on hearing this disc. However, if “push comes to shove” then particular favourites were Bill Whelan’s The Currach and Philip Hammond’s John O’Reilly the Active which weaves its spell by its almost mesmerising repetition of notes that continues building momentum.
Percy Grainger’s Molly on the Shore may be well known but I’ve never heard it played with more obvious delight and enjoyment by any pianist as it is here and I simply wanted it never to stop. The Beardless Boy by Philip Hammond is both fantastic and fascinating with an infectious exuberance while Garrett Sholdice’s gamelan-sounding Am Koppenplatz is beautiful in its simplicity. It’s a considerable contrast to Ian Wilson’s frantic little piece Sonnenwende which abounds in entrancing and complex rhythmic patterns. William Wallace’s Roslyn Castle is a perfect embodiment of all things Irish and all four of the traditional melodies arranged by Michael McHale are as delightful as you might expect. The inclusion of music by Samuel Barber and that great champion of Ireland Arnold Bax is another nice touch. John Field’s two nocturnes are just gorgeous, especially his No.4 in A major.
That’s just about the lot anyway and the two or three unmentioned also have their own charm. You can tell I love this disc and I do. It is also very well recorded. It is a disc that will have you return to it frequently and particularly if you need cheering up. It will not fail to put a smile on your face.
Steve Arloff 

Track listing
Cailín ó cois tSuire Mé (arr. M. McHale) [3:25]
Bill WHELAN (b.1950)
The Currach [6:50]
John FIELD (1782-1837)
Nocturne No.10 in E minor [3:51]
Samuel BARBER (1910-1981)
Nocturne Op.33 (Homage to John Field) [4:17]
Philip HAMMOND (b.1951)
John O’Reilly the Active [2:41]
My Lagan Love (arr. M. McHale) [3:28]
William V.WALLACE (1812-1865)
Mazurka-étude [3:36]
Nocturne No.4 in A major [5:31]
Arnold BAX (1883-1953)
Country Tune [2:14]
Percy GRAINGER (1882-1961)
Molly on the Shore [3:40]
She Moved through the Fair (arr. M. McHale) [4:25]
The Beardless Boy [3:09]
Arnold BAX
Nocturne [5:37]
Excursions Op.20 No.3 [3:09]
Donnacha DENNEHY (b.1970)
North Circular [1:12]
Garrett SHOLDICE (b.1983)
Am Koppenplatz [3:06]
Ian WILSON (b.1964)
Sonnenwende [4:59]
The Coulin (arr. M. McHale) [3:04]
Roslyn Castle [5:18]


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