Monday, 14 September 2015

Ernest Walker (1870-1949): Study, op.47 for piano

I recently reviewed Rarities of Piano Music at Schloss vor Husum 2014 on the Danacord Label for MusicWeb International. Amongst a great and wide-ranging selection of piano music from composers such as Stefan Wolpe, Ludwig van Beethoven, Nicolai Medtner, Ernesto Lecuona and Igor Stravinsky was a little piece that immediately caught my eye and ears. In fact, it is the only piece on this CD by a British composer.
This was Ernest Walker’s heartbreakingly beautiful Study (not a Prelude as given in the liner notes) for the left hand alone, op. 47 (1931). Better known for his seminal A History of Music in England, Walker was a composer, organist and pianist. He has a considerable catalogue including much chamber and piano music.  I have only heard a few pieces by Walker and have found them full of interest, often quite beautiful, if conservative and a little unadventurous in style.
The Study is deeply felt work, largely exploiting the lower registers of the piano and demanding a good legato technique. It is movingly played here by Hiroaki Takenouchi. The present work was one of three written by Ernest Walker for the pianist Paul Wittgenstein (1887-1961) who had lost his right arm during the First World War. Out of interest, Walker’s other Wittgenstein pieces were Prelude (Larghetto), op. 61 (1935) and the Variations on an Original Theme, for piano, clarinet and string trio (1933). Let us hope that one day these become available to the listener. 

Ernest Walker’s Study, op.47 is available on Danacord DACOCD749.


Peter Grove said...

Dear John - I am the writer of the CD booklet and since you have repeated your "correction" here, I would like to put the record straight. The piece on the CD is definitely the Prelude and NOT the Study. I have the scores of both in the Augener Edition: the Prelude is in a slow 12-8 tempo (Larghetto) and the Study is a fast 3-4 (Allegro vivace). Unfortunately the scores do not give opus numbers, and there I do admit to being mistaken, having followed up your review in Music Web International. The problem was that the Husum programme book called both pieces (Takenouchi played both) Preludes, and gave opus numbers of 61 and 47. Looking at Wikipedia, Google Books and an article about works written for Paul Wittgenstein seems to confirm that the Study is op.47 and the Prelude is op.61. The Study was a revised version for PW of a much earlier work composed in 1901. Walker also wrote a set of variations on an original theme for PW, with piano LH, clarinet, violin, viola and cello. The dates seem to be Study (revised version) 1931, Variations 1933, and Prelude (the piece on the CD) 1935. Anyway, thank you for making me check a few more sources than I had time to when writing the booklet, and thanks as always for the very fair and sympathetic reviews you always give to the CDs very soon after they are released. Peter Grove.

Peter Grove said...

Further to my recent comment, the full tempo indication for the Prelude is Larghetto tranquillo, sempre molto legato, which obviously reflects your remark about the piece needing good legato playing. The Study, in contrast, is marked con fuoco and has fierce dotted rhythms, staccatos and leaps. PG