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.