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Samuel COLERIDGE-TAYLOR (1875-1912)
Undiscovered Piano Music
Cameos, Op. 56 (1904) [12:54]
Valse Suite, “Three-Fours”, Op. 71 (1909) [18:55]
Forest Scenes, characteristic pieces Op. 66 (1907) [17:54]
Moorish Dance, Op. 55 (1904) [9:26]
Waka Hasegawa (piano)
rec. dates unknown, Metropolis Studios, London

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was one of the late romantic era’s most appealing, poetic voices, but admittedly not an especially original one. He did very well things others had already done very well, which along with his death at age 37 explains his undeserved obscurity. Coleridge-Taylor’s best music - the Violin Concerto leaps to mind - is so gorgeous, tuneful, and immaculately-crafted that his place in the mainstream repertoire deserves to be secure. Some of this “undiscovered” piano music belongs on that shortlist.
The three Cameos, Op. 56 begin the CD with an excellent summary of Coleridge-Taylor’s style: influences of Dvořák, American-style melody, and piano writing which is poetic but never especially taxing. The second Cameo is probably catchiest, a humoresque-type encore that would suit someone like Stephen Hough; you can almost hear the birth of Gershwin’s style. Of the Valse Suite, Op. 71, it’s again the second which is the standout. These waltzes are so emotionally varied, and so well-differentiated by Waka Hasegawa, that they feel like a coherent suite of different works, not just a series of waltzes.
The most substantial single movement on the disc is a scherzo-style Moorish Dance, Op. 55, which runs nearly ten minutes. It doesn’t sound especially Moorish - the excellent booklet essay says it is “limiting the Arab element to what a British audience would not find too alien” - but it’s a rhythmically complex, engaging piece, like a tamer Chopin scherzo. To me the ‘trio’ theme is very charmingly American. The suite of Forest Scenes is appealing enough but not on the same level, despite the composer’s attempt to inspire himself with titles like “Erstwhile They Ride the Forest Maiden Acknowledges Her Love.” It’s a reminder that Coleridge-Taylor wrote a lot of his music to meet the deadlines and pay the bills.
As mentioned, we’re indebted to Waka Hasegawa for her sensitive, very capable performances of this music, and the engineers give Coleridge-Taylor a chance to be heard at his best. The record label, Metropolis, is also listed as the publisher of this music, but if these are world premiere recordings, or if the music really has been newly rediscovered, the booklet does not say so. Possibly a page explaining the music’s provenance has gone missing from my copy; my booklet is a PDF, downloaded along with the album from Clas sicsOnline, and the pages are all out of order.
So if the late-romantic piano repertoire of Dvořák, MacDowell, Paderewski, and the encores on those Stephen Hough piano albums is your kind of thing, give this a try and enjoy it. Pair it with a glass of wine.
Brian Reinhart