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Elias Parish Alvars (1808-1849)/Carl Czerny (1791-1857)
Grand Duo Concertant on Donizetti’s ‘Linda di Chamounix’, Op 65
Grande Fantaisie Brillante, Op 39 on airs from Donizetti operas (1838)
Robert Nicholas-Charles Bochsa (1789-1856)
Le goût du jour, Op 169 (1820?)
Elias Parish Alvars
Ouverture to the Opera ‘The Legend of Teignmouth’ Op 47
Jan Ladislav Dussek (1760-1812)
Duo concertant in B-flat major, Op 74
Simon Callaghan (piano)
Clíodna Shanahan (piano)
rec. 2021, Wyastone Leys, UK

Here is a goodly eighty-minutes-worth of highly civilised music for two pianos by four companionable contemporaries. The century is the nineteenth and the geographical focus is London. The youngest of the four is harpist and composer Elias Parish Alvars. The others were widely travelled - as was Parish Alvars - but somewhat older. Those in search of Trivia or Pub Quiz currency can note that our principal hero was born in Teignmouth in South Devon and gave his first concert in Totnes, Devon in 1818. (Neither Totnes nor Teignmouth is far from Torquay where I was brought up in the 1960s.)

Parish Alvars was much admired by Berlioz who dubbed him “the Franz Liszt of the harp”. He studied in London with Nicolas-Charles Bochsa and was further refined by classes in Paris and Florence. He bore something of a romantic resemblance to Robert Schumann. He moved among glitterati of his day and had an eager international following. His music includes a symphony, an opera (the intriguing The Legend of Teignmouth), a harp concerto and a host of works for solo piano and piano duet. He died of pneumonia at the age of 41.

The piano duo Simon Callaghan and rising star, Clíodna Shanahan introduce us to this decorous and decorative music which I do not recall hearing before. Parish -lvars is heard as a composer voice alone and in two cases in collaboration with Carl Czerny. The two works co-authored with Czerny are highly coloured fantasies or potpourris from Donizetti’s operas. The one ranging around airs from several of the Donizetti operas is quite unconventional. The Dussek Duo concertant is in three movements of which the Marche funèbre is remarkable for being most stately and dignified.

The English-only liner notes recount the tales of each composer in colourful terms and are provided by three key figures. The first is Simon Callaghan, who has recorded some excellent late Holbrooke for this label as well as a clutch of choice British piano concertos. Then there’s that ubiquitous sirocco, Adrian Farmer, key pianist and éminence brillante with Lyrita and Nimbus. Thanks are also paid to Luke Whitlock, who has done so much for out-of-the-way British music on radio and elsewhere.

Rob Barnett

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