Solo Piano Music of Edvard Grieg
Gerard Willems, piano
ABC Classics 481 1699
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This two CD set of selections of Grieg’s solo piano music is significant in that it is the first all Australian recording to be made available. Furthermore Stuart & Sons have provided the piano and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music the venue, which gives this disc a distinctly local flavour. The music of course is purely Norwegian. It would be impossible to expect any Australian composer, either past or present to have the ability to produce such a set of richly diverse and enigmatic pieces. Gerard Willems’ selections on Disc 1 include an energetic and joyous account of the Holberg Suite, op 40 and a sensitive reading of the early Six Poetic Tone Pictures, Op 3. The highlight of Disc 1 is the ever popular Peer Gynt Suite No 1, Op 46 which sound incredibly clean and resonant on the magnificently hand crafted Stuart & Sons piano. The second disc is devoted entirely to a selection of the 66 Lyric Pieces, spanning Op 12 to Op 71 in ten volumes from 1867 to 1901. They are played precisely and although each is an entity within itself there is almost a cyclic feel with a warmth and vitality for which Grieg was known. Grieg’s signature for the piano will always be the Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16. It is easy to overlook his extensive piano output in favour of this beloved warhorse. This CD is ideal for anyone willing to explore Grieg a little further than the Concerto or for those appreciative of the Romantic piano miniature which the likes of Chopin, Schumann and Liszt made their own remarkable contributions. Grieg carried this forward to the end of the 19th century, using his love for his homeland as a canvas to produce a montage of vivid and evocative music that is a pleasant and rewarding experience.
Australian Brandenburg Orchestra
Artistic Director and Co-Founder Paul Dyer
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Here at Fine Music 102.5 we’re delighted to add our congratulations to the co-founders of the ABO and how wonderful that so much pleasure has been provided for listeners during the first 25 years. There’s no doubting that with the current recording they have maintained the high standards and undiminished pleasure of performance that listeners have demanded, experienced and enjoyed over many years. The contents of the program include some of the favourites of the baroque period starting with Handel’s Zadok and working its way via Telemann’s wonderful wake-up presto, the continuing excitement of the cello in Vivaldi and, following close on the heels of the Zadok, is favourite Geminiani’s La Follia. And I was particularly attracted to the reflectiveness found in the slow movement of the Brescianello. I was unsure about the reason for including the Kats-Chernin’s Cube which I felt contributed to a lack of compatibility with the rest of the program. If I’m allowed to say so as a listener I share Kats-Chernin’s love of Bach and there are some fascinating compositional techniques in the work but of course no fugues. The lines throughout the performance are always clean but some of the florid passages are not quite best articulated particularly in some of the bass passages, and in the mood of whether we should ‘change station’ there were some rather longish silences between movements which I suppose in concerts equates to applause? Jane Sheldon, soprano and specialist baroque soloists contribute greatly to the success of the recording.
Vocal and Chamber Music by Horace Keats
Linden String Quartet, Louise Page, soprano, Marina Marsden, violin, Justine Marsden, viola, Emily Long, violin, Elizabeth Neville, cello, Janet Welsh, flute, Phillipa Candy, piano
Wirripang (Wirr 050)
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Horace Keats (1895-1945), an Australian composer, is best known for his songs, of which there are six on this CD, excellently sung, with a voice of good quality, by Louise Page. According to the liner notes, Keats has been described as “the Schubert of Australia” but it is absurd to mention Schubert in the same breath as Keats. The music presented here is written in the late-romantic, traditional style of about one hundred years ago. It does not sound specifically Australian, or even British. It is somewhat reminiscent of American music written about 1900. It reveals a modest talent for melody and harmony, but little in the way of a strong creative talent. On the whole I enjoyed the chamber music, especially the last piece, Movement, for violin, flute and cello, more than the songs which seem to be weighed down by the pretentious lyrics. All the performances are first class but, even so, I could not rate this disc as a ‘must’ purchase, except for those interested in the by-ways of Australian music.