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Benjamin DALE (1885-1943)
Sonata in D minor (1905) [45:05] Night fancies (1907) [10.06] Prunella (1916) [3.06]
Peter Jacobs (piano)
rec. 12 December 1991, Rosslyn Hill CONTINUUM CCD1044 [57.38]
This disc contains some extremely fine piano playing, and is an important issue, featuring, as it does, Benjamin Dale’s epic and impressive Sonata for piano. Dale commenced work on the Sonata in 1902, when he was a student at the Royal Academy of Music, and it was submitted for the Hambourg piano competition prize in 1906 as one of sixty entries. The piece won the prize, yet Hambourg’s performance of the work at the competition’s concert included various cuts and alterations unsanctioned by the composer, to the extent that Dale handed back the prize in high dudgeon. Performances of the work by pianists such as York Bowen and Myra Hess were well-received; and it entered the repertoire for a while as a popular and acclaimed work.
The Sonata opens with a bold and jaunty Allegro deciso, which is followed by a Theme and set of seven variations, before the Finale Molto Allegro – Lento. Over its nearly three-quarters of an hour duration, the Sonata covers a wide range of moods and musical ideas, here brought out beautifully by Peter Jacobs. His playing covers everything from gossamer delicacy and dreamy tenderness through to fiery boldness and dazzling virtuosity.
The disc also includes the impressive and romantic Night Fancies, an impromptu dating from 1907 and dedicated to the critic Edwin Evans. We also get the charming miniature Prunella, which was written during Dale’s incarceration as a prisoner of war at Ruhleben. It was originally sketched for piano and violin as incidental music for a play but later arranged for both piano and for orchestra. Both pieces are here given fine and committed performances by Peter Jacobs.
The booklet notes by esteemed musicologist Lewis Foreman are good. However, production standards leave something to be desired with dense and clunky looking text and illustration layout. These are convincing performances of important piano works.
Sonata movements Allegro Deciso [12.00] Theme and Variation I [3.22] Variation II [3.22] Variation III [1.01] Variation IV [3.15] Scherzo Variation V [1.48] Variation VI [3.05] Variation VII [1.34] Andante – Adagio [4.41] Finale