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Hugh Tinney: A Portrait
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Well Tempered Clavier Book I: Prelude in C major, BWV846 [2:46], Well-Tempered Clavier Book II: Prelude in D minor, BWV875 [1:43]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Piano Sonata in B flat major, D960 (1828) [39:20]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Barcarolle, Op.60 (1846) [8:59]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Images, Book 1 (1905) [15:48]
Gerald BARRY (b. 1952)
Swinging Tripes and Trillibubkins, from The Intelligence Park (1980/91) [1:47]
Tom JOHNSON (b. 1939)
Euler’s Harmonies, from Music for 88 [4:19]
Hugh Tinney (piano)
rec. July 2012, St. Peter’s Church of Ireland, Drogheda, Co. Louth
RTÉ LYRIC FM CD142 [74:42]

I wondered from the disc title whether this wasn’t a compilation designed to explore some of the more salient reportorial features of pianist Hugh Tinney’s now thirty-year career. But no, it’s nothing of the sort. The recital was recorded in July 2012 but it does contain many pieces to which Tinney is particularly attached. He has decided to detach the two Bach Well-Tempered Clavier Preludes from the fugues and they do, indeed, as he writes in his booklet notes, make for a contrasting pair. The first is limpid and bathed in a very warm acoustic whilst the D minor is the more assertive.
 
Though he had first learned Schubert’s B flat major sonata when he was 15, it was when he was studying with Maria Curcio that he began to play it widely. The long first movement has necessary breadth but possesses equally necessary spinal fluid, never lapsing into the kind of interminable performance of which Richter, say, was occasionally prone. The drum roll effects are not exaggerated, and Tinney looks for phrasal continuity with an active rhythmic underpinning in the left hand. Once again the sound quality, as throughout the disc, is very mellow, emphasising the tonal warmth he brings to bear. Tempi feel right and in the finale he adopts one equidistant between that of Schnabel, the Schubertian High Priest of pre-war years, and his student Curzon, one of the post-war torch bearers.
 
Chopin’s Barcarolle was the piece that succeeded in ‘prodding’ him to become a pianist, and it’s a work with which he has been bound up for many years and is rightly contained in this conspectus of his conspicuous musical loves. Debussy too is one of those, and Tinney has selected Book I of Images, which he learned whilst studying with Louis Kentner. Tinney is a thoughtful Debussian, though having recently listened to Craig Sheppard it’s evident that Sheppard is the more active colourist, and the pianist who better charts a course between expressive candour and digital clarity. In comparison Tinney sounds just a shade monochromatic in his responses and here the recording makes him sound blander than he could have been.
 
To end we have a strangely contrasting pair, to match the two Bach Preludes. Gerald Barry’s Swinging Tripes and Trillibubkins is a long title for so brief a piece of music – a fast-moving bell-like excursion taken from The Intelligence Park. Tom Johnson’s Euler’s Harmonies, from Music for 88 is a meditative reflection that leads us slowly but inexorably back to Bach.
 
So what seemed like a retrospective turns out instead to have been a programme, as well as a portrait.
 
Jonathan Woolf

Masterwork Index: Schubert piano sonata D960