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Composers at the Savile Club
Alexander Karpeyev (piano)
Sam Pierce, Bradley Jones (trumpet)
rec. 2018, Duke’s Hall, Royal Academy of Music, London

The Savile Club was established in 1868 in London as a lighter-hearted alternative to the more formal long- established clubs in the city. Its communal aspects appealed to convivial men of the arts and sciences – from Kipling and Yeats to Ernest Rutherford – and its first composer member was Stanford, in 1884. All the music here was composed by Savilians – I’m sure that can’t be the right word – though other composer-members not represented in this piano recital include Bliss, Arnell, Bernard Herrmann and William Lloyd Webber.

Pianist Alexander Karpeyev tops and tails the disc with two brass fanfares. The opening one is by Julian Anderson which quotes towards the end the Savile Centenary Fanfare of his predecessor, Malcolm Arnold, which closes the programme. In between comes a plethora of material. Parry’s Prelude comes from his suite Hands Across the Centuries, a Brahmsian piece of declamatory force followed whimsically by Quilter’s impressionistic In a Gondola though Quilter does eventually introduce some more robust chording. Herbert Howells dedicated Procession to Arthur Benjamin, another Savile member. Its March insistence is decidedly agitated, prefiguring some of the angst-ridden choral music to come.

Francis Chagrin mined his Romanian background in his pert and characterful suite with its lightly spiced folkloric turns of phrase – quizzical and substantial simultaneously, remarkably enough – and this prefigures Arnold’s Variations on a Ukrainian Folk Song, a neat piece of programming, with Chagrin’s aperçu prefacing Arnold’s most substantial solo piano work which, at 15 minutes, dwarfs everything else in the programme in terms of breadth. Few but Arnold could insinuate the tango, the funereal and the sultry in quite so brazen a way.

Benjamin’s breezy Scherzino contrasts with William Alwyn’s Night Thoughts, possibly the single most beautiful piece here, and they both contrast with three of Virgil Thomson’s Nineteen Portraits of 1981 in one of which, Wide Awake, which relates to ballet director Bill Katz, the depiction is lightly dissonant. Walton’s Popular Song from Façade is heard in Roy Douglas’ clever arrangement before we hear the affectionate fluff of Balfour Gardiner’s Shepherd Fennel’s Dance. Elgar is represented by an unhurried In Smyrna and the light, slight, delightful Serenade in G. ‘Stanford-arranged-Grainger’ marks out the generous vitality of A Reel and Leprechaun’s Dance.
This disc was originally produced as a private CD for members of the club on the occasion of its 150th anniversary in 2018, for which Anderson wrote his fanfare, which referenced Arnold’s fanfare for the club’s centenary celebration. Jeremy Barlow, who writes the programme notes, researched the programme alongside Karpeyev. It was recorded attractively in the Royal Academy of Music and is not stamped ‘Savile Club members only’. It makes instead for a neat little programme of (mostly) British repertoire that, because of its occasional nature, will be little-known but greatly enjoyed.

Jonathan Woolf


William Alwyn
Night Thoughts (1940) [4:51]
Julian Anderson
Fanfare: SC-GH (2018) [2:08]
Malcolm Arnold
Savile Centenary Fanfare (1968) [1:15]
Variations on a Ukrainian Folksong, op.9 (1944) [14:52]
Arthur Benjamin
Scherzino (1936) [2:21]
Francis Chagrin
Suite Roumaine (1950) [4:45]
Edward Elgar
In Smyrna (1905) [4:28]
Serenade in G (c.1888) [2:14]
Henry Balfour Gardiner
Shepherd Fennel's Dance (1911) [5:08]
Herbert Howells
Procession, op.36 (c. 1918) [3:56]
Charles H H Parry
Hands Across the Centuries: Prelude (1918) [2:13]
Roger Quilter
Impressions (2), op.19; In a Gondola (1914) [3:14]
Charles Villiers Stanford
Irish Dances (4), op.89; no.3 The Leprechaun's Dance (arr. Percy Grainger 1905) [4:44]: no.4 A Reel (arr. Percy Grainger 1905) [3:40]
Virgil Thomson
Nineteen Portraits (1981): Round and Round (Dominique Nabokov) [0:53]: Singing a Song (Christopher Cox) [1:10]: Wide Awake (Bill Katz) [0:58]
William Walton
Façade, no.32 Popular Song (arr. Roy Douglas) (1922) [2:27]

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