Tuesday 30 July 2019

‘A Day in My Life’ by Sir Alexander Mackenzie in The Tatler

On 20 February 1907 The Tatler published a short piece written by Sir Alexander Mackenzie describing a ‘typical’ day in his life at this time. Clearly not every day was like, but it gives a good idea as to what life was like as Principal of the Royal College of Music. Clearly his duties involved both administration, teaching and conducting. And there was much work to be undertaken in furthering his career as a composer and conductor. Like all these kinds of ‘personal’ stories, little, if anything, is said about extra-curricular activities. I guess that on many days there was no time for anything other than sleep.
The latter half of the this piece refers to Canada from where Alexander Mackenzie had recently returned after a demanding tour.

A Brief Biographical Note: Alexander Campbell Mackenzie (b Edinburgh, 22 Aug 1847; d London, 28 April 1935) was a Scottish composer, who was educated at the Royal Academy of Music, (of which he was later to become the Principal) He had further studies in Germany, where he made the acquaintance of Franz Liszt. (Unlike most of his English contemporaries he was brought up to music as a fiddler and an orchestral player rather than as an organist.)
He was an indefatigable organiser both in London and in Scotland and an adventurous conductor. As a composer he endeavoured to blend Scottish nationalism, with advanced German romantic expression. Examples of this fusion are The Cotter's Saturday Night, to a text by Robert Burns, set for chorus and orchestra, his Scottish Rhapsodies and his Pibroch suite for violin). He wrote oratorios which were perhaps less successful, musically and technically than his orchestral pieces, good deal of effective theatre music. He also composed two operas (The Cricket on the Hearth, 1902, and The Eve of St. John, 1924) and much chamber music. Among this is a well worth playing Pianoforte Quintet in E flat Op. 11.

‘A Day in My Life’ by Sir Alexander Mackenzie
A Divided Day
For many years past I have divided my days into two sections - the portion 1 devote to my private work and the portion I give to fulfilling my public responsibilities. The morning hours I reserve to myself sacredly for composition or such musical work without which I am neither content nor happy. Given some leisure for this I am able to approach my public duties with zest and energy, but before doing so 1 generally manage to have three or four hours at my own desk.

Conducting the Students' Orchestra.
For the rest here is a typical account of my average ‘daily day.’ I will suppose the day to be one on which I conduct the large students' orchestra, a work to which I devote three hours, from two to five o'clock. During that period, I hear our prominent pupils perform and sing, and as musical conductor I thus get to know their individual gifts and capabilities very intimately.

Trying the Compositions of Students.
On these days I sometimes try over such manuscript compositions which have been passed for trial by the professors of the academy with a view to giving them a public hearing at our concerts. These compositions 1 should perhaps explain have been written by our students, but before I rehearse them with our band they must be passed by our professors, otherwise I should probably have too many immature efforts submitted to me.

Concert Programme Pieces.
Of course, I do not decide on giving a public hearing to every composition. Only the best of these manuscripts ultimately figure on our concert programmes, and many of the most prominent of our younger composers have received their baptism of fire under these conditions.

Wholesome Criticism.
Sometimes weird, melancholy, and morbid enough music comes before me, and a mild joke on my part at such times has frequently resulted in promoting a healthier and brighter tone in the future efforts of its writer and probably saved him from perhaps less good-humoured chastenings at the hands of others. But my young friends are, I am glad to think, very tolerant of criticism.

Reading at Sight.
Invariably some time is spent in the study of the most recent orchestral works so that both students and conductor keep up continued acquaintance with the latest phases of the art, and the ready manner in which very difficult music is read prima vista is sometimes astonishing.

Seeing New Pupils.
Rehearsals over I adjourn to my room to keep appointments with students, parents, and others. At this time of the year new pupils are continually coming to join the academy, and 1 find half-a-dozen or more waiting to see me. Students come to us from all parts of the world, even from Germany.

A Difficult Duty.
I hear each intending pupil play or sing and find out generally how far advanced his or her musical education may be before deciding on the particular professor under whom the pupil shall study. To do this conscientiously and without undue waste of time requires quick thinking, and anyone who has not (like Mr. H. G. Wells) acquired the ‘prophetic habit’ would naturally hesitate before answering some of the anxious questions regarding the future and such like problems which are not infrequently put to me on these occasions.

Various Interviews.
During this period of the day's work I may be called upon to give a hurried piece of advice or encouragement to a student upon some particular point in his or her studies, or perhaps to see one of my colleagues who wishes to consult me. Then there are the ex-students who present themselves for final examination and a certificate on leaving the R.A.M.

Still More Work.
At half-past six I have probably got through all my interviews, but not all the correspondence, which has to be attended to before I can consider myself free. Subsequently I have not infrequently to move on to the offices of the Associated Board of the Royal Academy and Royal College of Music.

The Board of the R.A.M.
The board constantly sits until eight o'clock discussing the details of examinations and other matters not artistically exciting but, on the contrary, uncommonly dry work; happily, my colleagues are distinguished musicians and intimate friends, and so somewhere towards nine p.m. my day's work ends.

My Busiest Day.
To be overcrowded with invitations to work is, I fear, the inevitable portion of the o'er-willing horse, and a great deal more falls to my share than I could mention in a short article of this character. I was recently asked what was the busiest day I ever put in. Well, 1 think that day was one on which 1 began at 9.30 a.m. with an orchestral rehearsal of two hours and a half in London, Ontario.

Travelling, Speaking, Rehearsing, Conducting, and Banqueting.
We then proceeded by special train to Woodstock; there, after speaking at a public luncheon of which I had no time to partake, I hurriedly rehearsed the local choir in sight of the incoming audience; then conducted an afternoon concert and returned to London [Ontario] in time for the evening concert; The day ended with another banquet given by the mayor.

Upheld by the Climate.
All this did not prevent me from being at my post at an early rehearsal in Toronto on the following morning. I do not think I could possibly have got through such a fatiguing day's work in this country, but the Canadian climate is wonderfully bracing and invigorating: At all events I found it to be so.

Another Canadian Experience.
In two or three of the smaller Canadian towns I conducted the first orchestral concerts ever given, and as these entertainments took place in theatres I had to direct in the ‘house’ between the third and fourth row of stalls surrounded by the audience. Encores were always numerous enough, but on one occasion the enthusiasm was so compelling that I was obliged to play - with the exception of a short choral work - every item in the programme twice over. Truly the goodwill of the listeners helped my staying powers amazingly. A.C.M.
The Tatler - Wednesday 20 February 1907

Saturday 27 July 2019

On the Shoreline: Gordon Crosse

The CD opens with a remarkable work: On the Shoreline for recorder and string septet. This music was composed in 2016 for recorderist John Turner. Over the years, Crosse had a project where he planned to write ‘concerto-like pieces’ for all the woodwind instruments. This began in 1970 with Ariadne: Concertante for solo oboe and twelve players for oboe, op.31 and concluded with Ceili De for French horn and strings (2016). Imagine the composer’s surprise when John Turner said to him, ‘What about the recorder?’ Undaunted, Crosse composed the present work in a matter of weeks.  It is inspired by the ‘shoreline’ near his home in Papa Westray, Orkney. The solo instrument is the sopranino recorder which is the second smallest in size of this instrumental family. On the Shoreline represents a day in the life of the beach. The waves carry little weight here: it is the birds. The composer noted that when he wrote the piece, fulmars and sanderlings were plentiful. The recorder clearly mimics the birdsong, whilst the varied string accompaniment from the septet provides a background of ‘grey-blue sea and sky.’ This accompaniment is typically quite static but every so often it explodes into a flurry of sea-spray. It is a marvellous combination of sound. And what is more, it perfectly creates the mood intended. It is one of the best ‘seascapes’ I have ever heard.

The two-movement Piano Trio is a reworking of a piece composed for the Hartley Piano Trio back in 1986. Some 20 years later, Crosse ‘drastically’ revised the piece for the present Lawson Trio. It was also shortened considerably. The Trio was premiered in this form in 2012. It is a lopsided work structurally, with a very slow movement followed by an extremely fast one. I imagine this piece as a diptyque, composed in two widely contrasting panels of sound. The temper of the opening movement, ‘lento’ is millstone grit grim, with only a folksong-like melody near its conclusion bringing some light and warmth to the proceedings.  The long second movement ‘presto’ quickly comes to life with a variety of textures including ‘loud octaves for the piano’ and ‘whispered arpeggios for the two strings playing close to the bridge.’ There is considerable rhythmic irregularity here too. The pace of the music slows down as the movement progresses towards its close.  
This is a fascinating Piano Trio. It moves from darkness to some diffused light and back again to dusk. The musical language is approachable, despite much of it being sardonic in tone. The listener’s interest never flags, especially in the quicksilver parts of the second movement. Gripping stuff.

In recent years Gordon Crosse has turned to the piano and produced three sonatas and a set of short pieces, Ron’s Toyes. The Sonata no.1 is written in a ‘classical’ style, at least formally. Unusually for a ‘modern’ composer, Crosse repeats the first thematic exposition of the opening movement, which he says allows the material to be grasped by the listener, thus making its appearance in the development section clearer. The progress of this ‘vivace con fuoco’ is a journey between various degrees of dissonance. It is full of fire and dynamism with a diverse harmonic language.
The slow movement is a straightforward song-like piece. This is deliberately restrained music that only really wakens up with some ‘cadenza-like flourishes.’ This is a beautiful ‘Nocturne’ which acts as a perfect foil to the acerbic harmonic discourse of the breakneck speed of the last movement. Bearing in mind the notion of Chopin, the rapid finale reminds the listener of that composer’s Sonata No.2 for piano. Much of this movement is played in unison with the hands two or three octaves apart and typically pianissimo. It is only the coda that breaks away from this ‘sotto voce’ effect. Based on this work, the other two Sonatas demand our attention.

Ron’s Toyes was written in memory of artist, craftsman and toymaker Ron Fuller who was a family friend of Crosse. He lived in Laxfield, Suffolk. Fuller specialised in wooden toys. This is onomatopoeic music if ever there was. Modernist in style, but thoroughly enjoyable in every way. The listener can picture the gently turning sails of the ‘Puffin Windmill’ on a summer’s day and hear the crash of the battleship’s big guns and imagine a submarine surfacing. The ‘Classic Hen’ clucks about picking at the grain in the farmyard.  Here too, is the pastoral mood of ‘Sheep and Shears-man’. The music portrays the sheep shaking itself before being subject to a ‘haircut!’. Finally, two bi-plane aircraft from the First World War: a Sopwith Camel and a Fokker (perhaps) is represented. They rise and fall in the sky, circle each other, looping the loop and diving. There is the rattle of machineguns too.  This is not music for children to play: it is music for those of us who are children at heart.

The final work on this CD seriously impressed me. Crosse writes that the Papay Sonata for clarinet and piano was composed on the island of Papa Westray, which is the most northerly Orkney island. The composer has a house on this ‘bleak but beautiful’ island which he feels is on ‘the very edge of things…’ In fact, the CD cover displays a photo of his house.
Gordon Crosse insists that this is ‘a fairly straightforward three movement sonata’ True, the structure may nod towards a classical form, but the impact is of something more modern. The landscape, as well as the flora and fauna has clearly influenced this music. Maybe not utilising birdsong like Olivier Messiaen, the listener is never left in doubt that the seabird population is never far from these island shores. Think of Arctic Skuas and Terns. The entire piece is an essay in light and shade. It is full of musical images of the sea, the flat, tree-devoid but fertile land and the proclivity of the weather to change at a remarkably rapid rate.  I could listen to this evocative, sometimes pointillistic, modern, but immediately accessible sonata any number of times. It is a pure joy.

Gordon Crosse was born in the Bury, Lancashire on 1 December 1937. Over the years, Crosse has combined music composition with an academic career and computer engineering. He studied with the émigré Austrian composer Egon Wellesz, as well as receiving instruction from Goffredo Petrassi in Rome. Crosse’s university appointments include Essex, Birmingham and in the United States at Santa Barbara. He was ‘composer in residence’ at King’s College Cambridge between 1973 and 1975. In 1990, Crosse largely stopped composing music: during 2007, he started again and is ‘now writing pretty well non-stop.’ His most recent works (2016) include a Sonata for clarinet and piano, an Idyll for clarinet and string quartet and a Concertante ‘Ceili De’ for horn and strings

The playing on this CD is outstanding. Every piece is delivered with care, commitment and obvious enthusiasm. The sound quality is excellent. The liner notes written by the composer are most helpful: I have relied on them heavily in the writing of my review. The font and colour scheme leave a lot to be desired. For example, light orange text on grey background does not make for easy reading. The font size of the text is miniscule. I needed a magnifying glass: which is a pity, as these notes are entertaining and essential to an enjoyment of this music.

I relished this new CD of music by Gordon Crosse from end to end. Every work is full of interest, always listenable and occasionally challenging. I hope that many more recordings of Crosse’s music (he has a considerable back catalogue and is still busily composing) will be issued soon. In the present disc he has ideal interpreters of his unique compositional achievement. 

On the Shoreline: Gordon Crosse
Gordon CROSSE (b. 1937)
On the Shoreline for recorder and string septet (2016)
Piano Trio (1985/6)
Piano Sonata No.1 (2013/14)
Ron's Toyes, for piano (2014/15), Puffin Windmill; Battleship and Submarine; Classic Hen; Sheep and Shears-man; Two WW1 Biplanes.
Papay Sonata for clarinet and piano (2016)
John Turner (recorder), Manchester Sinfonia/Richard Howarth, Lawson Trio, Annabelle Lawson (piano), Matthew Scott (clarinet), Christine Zerafa (piano)
Rec. Royal Northern College of Music 7-8 December 2017, Royal Academy of Music, London, 23 September 2018 (Papay Sonata)

Wednesday 24 July 2019

Anton Dvorak: Slavonic Dances on Decca Eclipse.

I heard Anton Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance, op.72, no.1 on Classic FM the other day. It brought back memories of the first time I heard these pieces on record. In the early 1970s, I invested a lot of my weekly pay packet in Decca Eclipse records. For the uninitiated, these were re-releases of Decca’s back catalogue, remastered to have ‘pseudo-stereo.’ This was an electronic reprocessed sound created from the original mono recording. Its integrity has been debated.
For me, one attraction of these albums was the typically (but see below!) wonderful photographs of the British Landscape by courtesy of the National Trust. So, I invested £0.99p in Raphael Kubelik’s 1955 recording of the Slavonic Dances where he conducts the great Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.  (ECS 708)

There are 16 Slavonic Dances published in two volumes, op.46 and op.72. They were composed in 1878 and 1886. These Dances were originally written for four hand piano duet. Dvorak’s then publisher, Simrock, had suggested to him that he emulate Brahms’s Hungarian Dances, with a series of his own. These were the first pieces that brought huge popularity to the composer-both at home and abroad. Simrock further asked that they be orchestrated. In 1886, by popular demand, Dvorak produced a second series.  Musically, the first set, op.46 is Czech in character, and includes dances from Bohemia such as the ‘Furiant’ and the ‘Polka’. For the second group, op.72, Dvorak widened his geographical horizons and included a thoughtful Ukrainian ‘Dumka’ and a Polish ‘Mazurka’. Dvorak did not use pre-existing folk-tunes but absorbed their characteristic rhythmic and melodic features to produce his own original dances. They are very much idealised pieces.

The original LP of Kubelik and the Vienna Philharmonic had been issued in November 1955 on LXT 5079-80. At that date it was almost impossible to get 65 minutes onto a single disc. So, the dances were split between two LPs with a bonus track of Tchaikovsky’s Fantasy: Romeo and Juliet added. It was issued at the phenomenal cost of 72/11d. At today’s prices that would have been around £68!

T.H. (Trevor Harvey) began his review of this LP (The Gramophone, November 1955) by remarking on Kubelik’s ‘brisk speeds for many of the dances’. This was not deemed a problem except in the very first. He felt that ‘excitement was gained at a considerable loss of charm.’ Having listened to this ‘Dance’ in several versions I agree with Harvey’s comment from 65 years ago.  The same issue applied to the ‘enchanting canonic dance’ no.7 from op.72, although in this case Harvey thinks that this ‘speed’ works. Although the reviewer felt that the recording was good, it did not ‘emphasise the warmth of the Vienna strings.’ Subsequent remastering’s for the CD and digital age have done much to iron out this concern.

Nearly twenty years later, T.H. (Trevor Harvey) reviewed the Decca Eclipse re-release (The Gramophone, April 1974) and begun by reminded listener that a recently released album by Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Karel Šejna on Supraphon (MS01505) had managed to get all the Slavonic Dances onto a single disc. Although believing Kubelik’s ‘performances are as authentic and attractive as Sejna’s’ he considered that ‘the sound is nothing like as good, though judged on its own for electronic stereo from a mono issue it isn’t actually bad.’ Finally admitting that the Supraphon LP cost £1.60, he thought that it was ‘well worth the original money.’
Alas in those days, cost was the important thing, so it was the Decca Eclipse version for me.

The cover photograph was a huge disappointment to me. Compared to some of the wonderful, powerful landscapes of the Vaughan Williams’s Symphonies, recently released the rather prosaic picture of lilies in a pond seemed rather tame. In fact, the cover did not actually state where the lake was.

In 1975 Rafael Kubelik made another recording of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances, this time with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. It was originally released on two LPs (DG 2530 466 and DG 2530 593) and subsequently issued on CD in 1998. (457 712-2).

In the digital and CD age Kubelik’s Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra recording of the Slavonic Dances has been reissued several times. The most recent being on the Decca Legendary Performances in 2014 (00028946849521). Listening to this version in its entirety reminded me of the flamboyant and exiting recording I first heard back in 1974. His more recent version seems laid back by comparison I will probably stick with this recording in the future.

Sunday 21 July 2019

Turning towards you…Music by Robin Walker

The opening work on this CD, A Prayer and a Dance of Two Spirits (2007) immediately appealed to me. This concerto for violin, recorder and string orchestra is an elegy for Robin Walker’s parents, written ‘some time’ after their death. The unusual but extremely effective combination of violin and recorder was suggested to the composer by the recorderist, John Turner. Clearly ‘grief’ is the prominent emotion in the opening ‘Prayer’ and thanksgiving for their lives in the ‘Dance’. Stylistically, this concerto is typically ‘romantic’, with a few ‘modernist’ clichés thrown in for good measure. Here are lyrical melodies and sensuous harmonies. The second movement features some folk-music. I suggest that the listener ignore the composer’s ‘new age’ commentary about the importance of dreams in his music and just enjoy this ‘rhapsodic’ work for what it is: a beautiful meditation on the most basic human condition: death and living. It is a masterpiece.

The Song of Bone on Stone is a strange title. It derives, apparently, from the composer’s habit of bashing his teeth against a small stone trough. This artefact is near to Walker’s cottage ‘somewhere’ in the Pennines. He describes it as a ‘ritual act of obeisance that has become an essential contact’ between self and nature. Bad for the enamel though. This thirteen-minute solo for double bass represents this ‘liturgical’ event. The player’s ‘bow’ is the ‘Bone’ and the instrument is the ‘trough’. Everyone knows that teeth are made up of pulp, dentin, enamel, and cementum. And that enamel is harder than bone. The analogy holds. So far so good. The opening bars grate – rather like fingernails scraped across a chalkboard. Once again, the liner notes exaggerate the music’s goal. This is really a ‘study’ for double bass that incorporates lyrical material, dance rhythms and certain ‘extended’ playing techniques. On this level it is enjoyable and sometimes even exciting. It does not, I fear, ‘endorse all human passions…’ Nor does it need to be seen live to be enjoyed, despite the composer insisting that the soloist ‘theatrical[ly] addresses’ the double bass. And finally, maybe The Song is a wee bit too long for its own good.

‘I Thirst’, written for string quartet in 1994 is an attractive, if lugubrious work. Clearly inspired by the fifth of the Seven Last Words of Christ, it is an exploration of desolation and innocence. Much intensity is provided by using piercing harmonics. Robin Walker admits that the practice of religious faith is something from his past. But he still finds the need to ‘moor himself’ to something ‘beyond.’ Christ’s words from the cross ‘speak of forgiveness, selflessness, human need, abandonment by the divine, and can be universally subscribed to as such, faith or no faith.’ I agree.

I enjoyed Turning Towards You for double bass and piano (2014). Reading the liner notes gives all sort of ‘philosophical’ underpinnings to this piece. Ignore them. It is a well-crafted work for an unusual instrumental combination. There is sometimes a ‘jazzy’ mood to this music which propels it along ‘toccata like.’ Often the composer introduces some romantically inclined episodes which are thoughtful and meditative. Once again, Walker makes use of bass-fiddle harmonics to give colour and intensity, creating a magical effect.  Turning Towards You is a long work, but never lacks interest. The piece was dedicated to Robin Walker’s tutor at the University of Durham, Brian Primmer (1929-2008).

The final three works on this CD are for solo instruments. His Spirit over the Waters (2003) is written for solo cello and is in memory of Keith Elcome, a Manchester-based musician. Whatever the liner notes suggest, this work is an ‘elegy’ and a study all rolled into one. It is most impressive in every way.

A Rune for St Mary’s (2003) conjures with an ancient stone located in a field near Robin Walker’s home in the Pennines. There are inscriptions on this stone (runes?) which are undecipherable, but clearly of great antiquity. The solo recorder provides music of a ‘Pan-like’ enchantment with its repetitious ‘incantatory effect.’ It is a rewarding piece that is both timeless, and evocative of the moors above Delph.

The final piece is She took me down to Cayton Bay (2018). This is no ‘Walk to Paradise Gardens’ as the composer rightly states. In fact, Walker suggests that no one he ‘desired’ ever took him down there. The music reflects how he would have felt if someone had. Once again Walker has written a splendid study, rather than a tone-poem. It is a fetching title which may draw the listener into the seaside mood, rather than just baldly listening to a prosaic Etude. I have been to Cayton Bay several times, and it is certainly a wonderful place – with or without a lover. On balance, the music does evoke that wonderful East Riding beach.

The composer Robin Walker was born in 1953 in York. He was a chorister at York Minster and a scholar at the School. At Durham University, he studied with the Australian composer David Lumsdaine. After an academic career at the Royal Academy of Music and London and Manchester Universities, he ‘retired’ to a village in the Pennines to concentrate on composition. Various diverse musical elements find their way into his music, including the folk traditions of India and England.

As noted in the body of my review, the liner notes can be a bit abstruse and ‘new-agey’. However, they are well-written and informative. They include biographical details of the composer and the artists. All performers contribute magnificently to the success of this programme.

This is a fascinating CD. It introduces several diverse works by Robin Walker composed over a quarter of a century. All are enjoyable, approachable and interesting.

Track Listing:

Turning towards you…Music by Robin Walker
Robin WALKER (b.1953)
A Prayer and a Dance of Two Spirits (Concerto for violin, recorder and string orchestra) (2007)
John Turner (recorder); Emma McGrath (violin); Manchester Sinfonia/Richard Howarth
The Song of Bone on Stone for solo double bass (2018)
Leon Bosch (double bass)
‘I Thirst’ for string quartet (1994)
Manchester Camerata
Turning Towards You for double bass and piano (2014)
Leon Bosch (double bass); Min-Jung Kym (piano)
His Spirit over the Waters (2003)
Jennifer Langridge (cello)
A Rune for St Mary’s (2003)
John Turner (recorder)
She took me down to Cayton Bay (2018)
Emma McGrath (violin)
Rec. ASC Studios, Macclesfield, Cheshire, 26 February 1999 (I Thirst); St Thomas’s Church, Stockport, 5 July 2018 (A Prayer, Rune, Cayton Bay); St Paul’s Church, Heaton Moor, Stockport, 24 September 2018 (The Song, Turning, His Spirit).
DIVINE ART dda 25180 [75:16]
With thanks to MusicWeb International where this review was first published.

Thursday 18 July 2019

Introducing Sir Alexander Campbell Mackenzie (1847-1935): Scottish Composer, Musician and Academic

Introduction: Alexander Campbell Mackenzie is one of three composers who were instrumental in creating a renaissance of Scottish music. The other two were Hamish McCunn and John Blackwood McEwen. Naturally, there have been many others who have contributed to this revival, from the late-Victorian period until the present day. On a wider scale, Mackenzie, along with Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry and Sir Charles Villiers Stanford was associated with the renewal of British music in the second half of the 19th century
Mackenzie is largely forgotten, at least by today’s concertgoers, although he does retain a foothold in the catalogues of recorded music. Where he is recalled, it is usually for his works that are infused with the mood of Scotland – Burns Rhapsody, Piano Concerto and Pibroch Suite. That does not mean he indulges in Tartan sentimentality. His romantic sounding music owes a huge debt to Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner, neither of whom were parochial, Mackenzie’s operas and dramatic cantatas are now forgotten, apart from the occasional revival. One sign of hope for his standing as a cosmopolitan European/Scottish composer in the 21st century is the forthcoming recording of the entire corpus of piano music by Christopher Howell.

Brief Biography of Alexander Campbell Mackenzie:
  • Born at 22 Nelson Street, Edinburgh on 22 August 1847.
  • Aged only ten years old he went to Germany to school at Schwarzburg-Sondershausen in the Central German province of Thuringia. There he studied violin with K.W. Ulrich and theory with Eduard Stein.
  • In 1862 he continued studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London after gaining a King’s Scholarship. He studied violin there with Prosper Stainton and composition with Charles Lucas.
  • Returning to Edinburgh in 1865 he worked as a violinist and conductor.
  • During 1874, Mackenzie married Mary Malina Burnside. They had one daughter, Mary.
  • In 1881 he removed to Florence where he stayed for seven years. During this period, he befriended Franz Liszt.
  • On 22 February 1888, Alexander Mackenzie was appointed principle of the Royal Academy of Music, succeeding the late George Macfarren. Mackenzie moved to London, where he stayed for the remainder of his life.
  • He played a key role in establishing the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music in 1889.
  • Important works composed during the 1880/90s included the cantatas The Bride (1881) and Jason (1882); the operas Colomba (1883) and The Troubadour (1886); a ‘Scottish’ Concerto for piano (1897); three Scottish rhapsodies; and an overture, Britannia (1894).
  • He assumed role of Principal Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Society during 1892.
  • In 1894 Alexander Mackenzie gave the first British performance of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No.6 ‘Pathetique’ on 28 February1894.
  • He was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1895 and latterly appointed KCVO (Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order) by King George V in 1922.
  • In 1903 Mackenzie went on a ‘fact-finding’ visit to Canada to investigate Canadian folksong. This resulted in his orchestral Canadian Rhapsody (1905)
  • He resigned as principal of the RAM during 1924 and was succeeded by fellow-Scottish composer John Blackwood McEwen.
  • In 1927 his autobiography, A Musician's Narrative was published.
  • Alexander Campbell Mackenzie died on 28 April 1935 at his home at 20 Taviton Street, Gordon Square, London on 28 April 1935.
Six Key Works:
These works are all available on CD or download. There are several other works that would appear to demand interest and possible professional recording.
  • Concerto for piano, op.55 ‘Scottish’
  • Quartet for Piano and Strings in E flat major, op. 11
  • Britannia Overture
  • Burns’ Second Scottish Rhapsody
  • Violin Concerto in C sharp minor, op.32
  • Pibroch Suite for violin and orchestra, op.42

Brief Bibliography:
Mackenzie, Sir Alexander Campbell, A Musician's Narrative (Cassell and Co., London, 1927).
Farmer, Henry George, A History of Music in Scotland (Hinrichsen, London 1947)
Purser, John, Scotland’s Music: A History of the Traditional and Classical Music of Scotland from Early Times to the Present Day (Mainstream Publishing, Edinburgh,1992)

If you can only listen to two CDs of Alexander Campbell Mackenzie’s music:
Mackenzie, Alexander Campbell, Violin Concerto, Pibroch Suite for violin and orchestra, Malcolm Stewart (violin), Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Vernon Handley (Concerto); David Davies (Pibroch), Hyperion CDA66975, 1998.

Mackenzie, Alexander Campbell, Overture: The Cricket on the Hearth, op.62, Twelfth Night: incidental music, op.40, Benedictus for orchestra, op.37, no.3, Burns ‘Second Scotch Rhapsody’, op24, Coriolanus: incidental music, op.61, BBC Scottish Symphony/Martyn Brabbins, Hyperion CDA66764, 1995

And finally, if you have only time to hear one work:
This must be the Scottish Concerto for piano and orchestra. This was composed in 1897 for performance by Paderewski. There is no doubt about the ‘Scottish’ antecedents of this work with ‘well-known’ tunes in each movement. Yet ,they are seen through prism of virtuosity and all the appurtenances of a large and powerful late romantic piano concerto. The concerto begins with a strong ‘allegro maestoso’ balanced by a heart-felt second subject.  The core of the work is the gorgeous slow movement that musicologist John Purser has described as ‘ardent, and yet deeply nostalgic.’ It is a love song (probably unrequited) for the beloved seen through the eyes of the Scottish landscape. All is put to rights in the final movement, which is a romping reel, from start to finish.
The Scottish [Piano] Concerto was released on Hyperion CDA67023 in 1998. The disc included fellow Scot (by adoption, born in Berkshire) Donald Tovey’s Piano Concerto in A major, op.15 (1903). Marytn Brabbins conducted the BBC Scottish Symphony, with Steven Osborne as soloist in both works.

Monday 15 July 2019

Folk Tales: British Cello and Piano Miniatures on Naxos

This excellent CD fills several little gaps in the British musical repertoire for cello and piano. I am not suggesting that all these works cannot be found on other discs, downloads, uploads and vinyl. What is important is to have these minor masterpieces all in one place. Add to that, the committed performances of these pieces, the succinct liner notes and the splendid sound quality and you have an ideal disc for enthusiasts of both cello music and this group of pre-eminent late 19th/early 20th century British composers. 
I explored these works in chronological order rather than by composer. 

Despite the liner notes’ statement that Frederick Delius’s Romance for cello and piano was composed in 1918, when he was hard at work on the opera Koanga, I beg to suggest that this dating is wrong. For starters, Delius was working on this opera between 1895 and 1897. Secondly, I followed the score of the ‘Romance’ in the Frederick Delius Complete Works edition, Volume 31c. Robert Threlfall gives the date of this Romance as 1896. It was published posthumously in 1976. So, the Koanga connection is correct but the date is manifestly wrong.
Whatever the dating of this piece, it is a little bit of Delius that is largely untypical of his later works. It is both ‘winsome’ and ‘charming’ but sometimes displaying something a little more troubled.

Other early pieces are the ‘Romance’ by Sir Edward Elgar and the ‘Cradle Song’ by Frank Bridge.  Elgar originally wrote his ‘Romance’ for bassoon and orchestra in 1910. In the same year, it was published in a version for bassoon and piano. I am guessing that the version played here was made by Julian Lloyd Webber in 1985. Like so much music by Elgar, the typically warm, romantic sound of this work has a melancholic undertow.
The same year saw the Cradle Song by Frank Bridge. Ostensibly a ‘salon’ piece this beautiful short work evokes sadness and provides a glimpse of the composer’s ‘impressionistic’ style, soon to blossom forth in the remarkable tone poem The Sea. The other Bridge piece on this CD is the equally evocative ‘Spring Song’ arranged to be played by either violin or cello: it was dedicated to the composer’s pupil Cynthia Lubbock. Do not let the relative technical ease of the solo part detract from the ‘Elgarian’ wistfulness clearly displayed in this Song.

The most substantial work on this CD is Arnold Bax’s splendid Folk Tale. This piece was written at the conclusion of the Great War. The liner notes major on the impact of W.B. Yeats and the Celtic Revival on Bax’s music. Perhaps the inference is that the composer was writing a forlorn commentary on the events in Dublin during the Easter Rising of 1916? Interestingly, the work was written in same year that the composer left his wife Elsita Sobrino for Harriet Cohen. Yet I think the mood of this work is ‘Northern’. It is redolent of the much later orchestral tone-poem The Tale the Pine-Trees Knew (1931) with its dark colourings. Sibelius may be the musical inspiration in this Folk Tale, rather than the Free-State? Whatever the background, this is not a bucolic folk song, but ‘a tragic and melancholy reflection on Bax’s life and the world he found himself in’- both politically and emotionally.
Folk Tale for cello and piano was dedicated to Felix Salmond, who along with the composer gave the work its premiere in 1918.

I have always enjoyed listening to RVWs Six Studies in English Folk Song written in 1926. I have very happy memories of playing the piano part for a cellist now sadly dead. They seem to me to epitomise the subtle balance between the ‘innocence’ of the base material and its subtle reworking by Vaughan Williams. All the songs were collected by the composer ‘in the field’. The success of these studies is heightened by their conciseness and brevity. For me, the most beautiful (and memorable) number is the second song- ‘Spurn Point’- it is a surprisingly concentrated little piece that is utterly heart-breaking in its impact.
They have been ‘dished up’ in many guises with the solo part played by violin, clarinet or cello. There is also a version for cello and small orchestra arranged by Arnold Foster in 1957. The present version the Six Studies original incarnation.

Frederick Delius wrote his ‘Caprice’ and ‘Elegy’ for cello and piano during the last years of his life. He was assisted by his amanuensis Eric Fenby. Both were originally devised for cello and a chamber orchestra and are dedicated to the prominent cellist Beatrice Harrison. My thoughts about the ‘Caprice’ is that it is wrongly titled. It is hardly ‘capricious’ in its exposition; more of a subdued, meditative romance. Equally dark in mood is the ‘Elegy’ which is quite a complex little piece that balances two troubled melodies.

RVWs Fantasia on Greensleeves needs no introduction. Originally lifted from the composer’s opera Sir John in Love (1929) by Ralph Greaves in 1934, it has been arranged by several hands for various instrumental combinations including string orchestra with harp and optional flutes, piano solo, violin and piano and the present version for cello and piano. This latter was arranged by Scottish violist Watson Forbes in 1947.

My ultimate Desert Island Disc is E.J. Moeran’s Cello Concerto dating from 1945. It was dedicated to Peers Coetmore. They had been wed in that year, but alas, their marriage was not a great success. They were to a large extent incompatible: Moeran often need to escape into solitude and Coetmore had the pressures of a busy concert schedule. The ‘Prelude’ was the first piece that he dedicated to Peers. It was composed in 1943 and was presented to her before she went on a concert tour with ENSA. It is a beautiful tear-jerking tune, supported by a simple, but ultimately effective accompaniment. It surely reflects Moeran’s deep feelings towards his wife. The ‘Prelude’s’ first performance was in Alexandria in Egypt.
The Irish Lament is a much more powerful work based on a genuine Irish folk tune: ‘Johnny Asthore’. I am not sure that I have heard this piece before, although I have read the score. More complex than the Prelude, the piano part echoes the composer’s Irish Love Song for piano solo. Notwithstanding this self-borrowing, this a gorgeous elegy for cello and piano which once again seems to speak volumes about Moeran’s love for Peers Coetmore and possibly the realisation of the ultimate end of the relationship.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable album that is exceptionally well-played by Gerald Peregrine (cello) and Antony Ingham (piano). The liner notes are concise and informative, despite the misdating of the Delius ‘Romance’. And finally, for my point of view the CD is worth the price just to have a recording of Jack Moeran’s Irish Lament.

Track Listing:
Ralph Vaughan WILLIAMS (1972-1958) Six Studies in English Folk Song (1926)
Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941) Four Short Pieces for violin and piano: no.2 ‘Spring Song’ (1912)
E. J. MOERAN (1894-1950) Irish Lament (1944)
Edward ELGAR (1852-1934) Romance (version for cello and piano), op.62 (1910)
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934) Caprice (1930), Elegy (1930)
Arnold BAX (1883-1953) Folk Tale (1918)
E.J. MOERAN Prelude for cello and piano (1943)
Frederick DELIUS Romance for cello and piano (1896)
Frank BRIDGE Cradle Song for cello and piano (1910)
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS, Fantasia on Greensleeves (1934/47) (arr. Ralph GREAVES/Watson FORBES)
Gerald Peregrine (cello), Antony Ingham (piano)
Rec. Potton Hall, Suffolk, 19-20 February, 10 July 2018
NAXOS 8.574035 [54:26]
With thanks to MusicWeb International where this review was first published. 

Friday 12 July 2019

Promenade Novelties Reaching their Century: Edgar Bainton’s Three Orchestral Pieces

The Promenade Concert season of 1919 witnessed several premiere performances of music that remain in the public domain to this day. Naturally, there are several works, large and small that have slipped by the wayside. This is one of them. 

Edgar Bainton (1880-1956) is chiefly remembered for his anthem ‘And I saw a New Heaven’ which is a ‘standard’ of ‘choirs and places where they sing.’  Despite the superb quality of this choral work it is unfortunate that his wide-ranging catalogue of music is rarely explored these days. Bainton produced a choral symphony, two instrumental symphonies, a Fantasia for piano and orchestra, several operas and many piano pieces, chamber works and songs.

The Three Pieces for orchestra were composed towards the end of the Great War and were subsequently revised between 1919-20. There are three movements: ‘Elegy’, ‘Intermezzo’ and ‘Humoresque’.  The entire piece lasts for just over 10 minutes. At the Promenade Concert on 20 September 1919 the audience heard only the first two movements.  

Much could be written about the genesis of these Three Pieces. However, the important thing to recall is that Bainton was at the time of composition a prisoner of war in the Ruhleben Camp, near Berlin. He had been arrested by police in 1914 whilst en-route to that year’s Bayreuth Festival, an event he had attended for many years. Other inmates at Ruhleben included the composers Benjamin Dale, Frederick Keel and Ernest MacMillan as well as the cellist Carl Fuchs of the Halle Orchestra.

The work originated as ‘incidental music’ for camp performances of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and Twelfth Night.  The opening movement, an ‘Elegy’, reflects on Viola hearing of her brother’s death. It is the heart of the work. Ernest Newman writing in The Guardian (24 September 1919) suggested that it has ‘a good deal of emotional subtlety underlying its apparently simple musical idiom.’ The mood lightens a little with the ‘Intermezzo’ evoking Windsor Forest on a hot summer’s day. The finale seems to portray the antics of that loveable hero, Sir John Falstaff.  The entire work has, as Rob Barnett (MusicWeb International, 8 May 2008) suggested, ‘an Arden-like pleasantry’ with music that is ‘both gently magical and bluffly celebratory - a touch of Korngold in the last piece…’

The Three Pieces for orchestra was eventually played in its entirety at Bournemouth on 6 January 1921. At the same concert the audience heard Bainton’s Concerto Fantasia (1917-20) for piano and orchestra. The composer was the soloist.

The work has not been heard at the Promenade Concerts since.

Listeners are fortunate that Edgar Bainton’s Three Orchestral Pieces (in their final version) were recorded by Chandos (CHAN 10460) in 2008. The CD includes the Pavane, Idyll and Bacchanal (1924), The Golden River (Suite after [John] Ruskin, op.16 (1908, rev 1912) and the delightful Concerto Fantasia (1917-20) for piano and orchestra. All were premiere recordings. The BBC Philharmonic is conducted by Paul Daniel with Margaret Fingerhut as piano soloist.

Finally, for the record, in 1934 the composer left these shores for Australia, where he became the Director of New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music.

Edgar Bainton’s Three Pieces for orchestra have been uploaded to YouTube

Tuesday 9 July 2019

John Ireland: Summer Evening arranged for string orchestra (Graham Parlett)

One of my belated ‘discoveries’ of 2019 is the beautiful arrangement of John Ireland’s piano piece Summer Evening. This was made for string orchestra by the musicologist (amongst many other things) Graham Parlett.  He tells me that the score is dated 2013 but was finally completed and parts made during May 2015. Its original incarnation is largely beyond my piano playing skills, but I do manage to make a bold attempt at parts of it. Years ago, I discovered a recording of this work on the Lyrita label, played by John Rowlands.  I was captivated by this idyllic evocation of an English summer. Since then I have enjoyed recorded performances by Eric Parkin, Mark Bebbington and Alan Rowlands.

Summer Evening is a delightful example of ‘South Downs’ pastoral music. Its 1919 date suggests that the composer was harking back to the Edwardian pre-Great War era. It was composed whilst the composer was living at Gunter Grove in Chelsea and was published by Ascherberg, Hopwood and Crew Ltd in the following year. It was subsequently republished in Volume 2 of The Collected Piano Works of John Ireland by Stainer and Bell (1976).
Stewart R Craggs in his John Ireland: A Catalogue, Discography and Bibliography (Oxford, Ashgate, 2007) is unaware of Summer Evening’s premiere. He notes the (probable) first broadcast performance on the BBC Home Service on 18 June 1941. A search of the Radio Times found no earlier recital.

Fiona Richards (Meanings in the Music of John Ireland, 2000) writes that the music ‘juxtaposes the lyrical ballad side of Ireland with brief Dorian excursions into a more ecstatic world, once again ending with the una corda [soft pedal] and lontano [from a distance; distantly. as from far away] indications.’ This wistful magic is replicated in Parlett’ arrangement, which creates an ideal mood of music to be heard lying on one’s back on a grassy hillside in Surrey, Sussex or even Yorkshire. It makes a perfect companion to the piano piece.

Enjoy John Ireland’s Summer Evening in the Parlett arrangement for string orchestra on Naxos 8.571372. The Orchestra of the Swan is conducted by David Curtis. But do not forget to listen to the piano original. This can be heard in several versions. A good example is played by John Lenehan on Naxos 8.553889.

Saturday 6 July 2019

William Alwyn (1905-85): Fantasy-Waltzes for Piano (1956)

In 1956, around the same time as William Alwyn was composing his great Third Symphony, the composer was at work on the Fantasy-Waltzes for piano: at least various ideas were beginning to gestate in his mind. This was the first piano work to be composed since the Five by Ten miniatures in 1952.
Fantasy-Waltzes was inspired by a visit to Edvard Grieg's lakeside home at Trolhaugen, near Bergen. It was originally to have been a few 'salon' pieces composed to prove that it was still possible to write music that was approachable, enjoyable and fun to play. Unusually for William Alwyn at this time, they are not based on a series or tone row but were written in a free virtuosic style.
They were composed especially for the New Zealand pianist Richard Farrell, who gave their first complete performance at Broadcasting House on 2ndJune 1957. He had already played several of the individual waltzes in New Zealand. Tragically, Farrell was to die tragically in a road accident the following year.

The Fantasy-Waltzes is divided into two discrete parts:  waltzes one to six and seven to eleven. There is no single thematic basis to the whole work. True, there are references in the last bars of some of these waltzes to the following one. What Alwyn does is to take the form and rhythms of various kinds of waltzes and apply his own invention to them. It is not his intention to generate a stylistic unity - in fact the whole work is predicated on a constant creation of diverse material with only a few cross-references. It can be equated to the transcriptions of Franz Liszt - basic material is taken and then reworked in the composer's image. For example, the final waltz is reminiscent of a style once popular with amateur pianists - yet it is worked up into something that is quite definitely the composer's own.
William Alwyn uses a wide variety of styles: he takes them up and throws the away. There are allusions and references to Ravel, Rachmaninov, Chopin and Johann Strauss. However, there are no actual quotes: the work is not pastiche It is very difficult to isolate styles and allusions and that was not the intention of the composer.
Much of this music is romantic - although here and there are nods to the composer’s earlier neo-classical style. Above all, these Waltzes are fun: the composer is clearly enjoying himself and has produced a minor masterpiece that is well-written and enjoyable to hear and to play.

The opening waltz is straightforward - it is written in good old-fashioned ternary form: it sounds a little like Ravel. No.2 is a humorous piece, typically played ‘scherzando’ with variety and contrast provided by a good cantabile melody. The third waltz, a 'moderato,' is a straightforward ‘salon’ piece. It was apparently the first section of this work that Alwyn composed: it was the basis of the entire set. Bearing in mind the inspiration of this work, there are allusions in style, if not in content, to Grieg himself. It is ideally placed third as it acts as a foil to the relative sophistication of the first two waltzes. The fourth number is a lovely 'grazioso,' well-written and again in the 'light' music vein. Waltz No. 5, ‘lento’ is a complex piece - at least harmonically. It pushes the concept of a piano waltz to its limit. The last piece, ‘allegro giocoso’ in the first section is a foil to the previous one. It is much lighter in style and is reminiscent of the kind of music that was popular in the early years of the twentieth century.

The first waltz of the second half of this work has been compared to Debussy. This is more to do with the tones and sonorities produced on the keyboard rather than any reference to specific works by the French master. This ‘lento’ is a profound uttering that needs the context of the surrounding numbers to allow it to be appreciated.
I feel that the Waltz No. 8, ‘vivace ma ritmico’ is the most attractive of the entire set. It has been likened to a Viennese waltz seen through the ‘transcriptive’ eyes of Sergei Rachmaninov.
The ninth piece is a touch unbalanced. It opens with a vague, meandering feel and then proceeds into a 'middle eight' of plunging romanticism. This music is highly charged and very passionate, only to collapse once more into a reprise of the hazy opening music.
After the romantic stress and strain of the previous waltz it is refreshing to be presented with what is ostensibly another enjoyable salon piece played in ‘tempo piacevole.’
The whole work concludes with a wonderful finale that is full of style and pizzazz. The ‘presto’ is really the only movement here that could be construed as pastiche. It is supposedly like the kind of waltz that was popular with the French publishing house of Durand. However, it is a great way to finish and leaves an impression of a highly enjoyable work, quite out of sympathy with much that was happening musically in the late nineteen fifties.

There are currently five versions of William Alwyn’s Fantasy Waltzes available. Sheila Randell on Lyrita SRCD 293, Ashley Wass on Naxos 8.570359, Mark Bebbington on Somm 133, Julian Milford on Chandos CHAN 9825 and John Ogdon also on Chandos CHAN 8399. Several of these waltzes have been uploaded to YouTube.

With thanks to MusicWeb International where this piece was first published in 2002. I have made several minor edits.

Wednesday 3 July 2019

It's Not British, but...Fini Henriques's Piano Music on Danacord

First things first. This is a delightful CD of ‘straightforward’ piano music. Every one of these 52 tracks are a little bit of pleasure. And not only that, they are played with imagination, a touch of wistfulness and complete attention to detail.
There is a snag. There are three music ‘albums’ on this disc. It is very difficult to listen to this CD at one sitting: all the music would seem to blur into one long assortment of sameness.  And that is hardly fair to Henriques’s achievement. Even taking one collection at a time is not much more successful. Take Schumann’s Album für die Jugend, op. 68, (Album for the Young). This is one of my favourite collections of miniatures – both to hear and to play. In the Schumann, there is a moderately wide-range of material– some more or less straightforward, others requiring greater technical achievements. Much as I love the Album für die Jugend, I could no more take it at one sitting: playing or listening. And Fini Henriques is the same. Several commentators have suggested that his Children's Poetry, Op. 30 (1908) is an early 20th century Danish version of Schumann delightful album. So, my stricture applies here too.
I would suggest dipping in and out of this CD. Listen to a few of these pieces at a time. Enjoy the imaginative effect of these largely ‘innocent’ titles. They are quite beautiful and surprisingly full of interest.

A word about Fini Henriques. He was born in Frederiksberg, Copenhagen on 20 December 1867. After early piano studies with his mother and violin with Lars Valdemar Tofte, he began composition lessons with the well-known Norwegian composer Johan Svendsen. Further training took place at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin with Joseph Joachim and Woldemar Bargeil. Much of Henriques career was spent as a highly regarded freelance violinist. I have only heard a couple of fugitive pieces by Henriques before reviewing this CD. Based on this disc and a few comments in Grove’s and information in a couple of reviews, I note that he writes in a melodic, romantic style, probably regarded as old-fashioned in his day. As stated above, Schumann was a model for much of the music on this present disc (that is no complaint!) and I understand that there are influences of Wagner and Tchaikovsky at play in his ballets such as The Little Mermaid. It is not difficult to discover hints of Edvard Grieg either. Fini Henriques died in Copenhagen on 27 October 1940.

I am lucky to have found the piano score of Henriques’s Children's Poetry, Op. 30: I was unable to locate the other two albums within the timeframe of this review. The pieces here represent the child’s world - at least at the time of composition. This was an era when imaginative reading was of more importance that social networking on electronic devices - at least for some children. Just look at a few of the titles: ‘The Juggler’, ‘The Cat after the Mouse’, ‘The Chatterbox’ and ‘Will o' the Wisp’. Then there are some more ‘pathetic’ pieces such as ‘The Minuet of Sorrow’, ‘Doggy’s Death’ and ‘The Lonely Person’. There are even one or two titles that would be deemed politically incorrect in 2019 – ‘Dancing Bears’ and the ‘The Dance of the Wild People’.  My personal favourite is the melancholy ‘At the Grave from the Melodic Album, op. 50, composed in the aftermath of the Great War.
Henriques does not try to write tiny tone-poems on these subjects, but there is often some musical onomatopoeia which adds charm and delight.

The liner notes by Thorkil Mølle give a good introduction to the life and times of the composer but say precious little about the music. As noted above, the playing by Thomas Trondhjem is well-judged and is never patronising. Clearly, many of these pieces are technically ‘easy’ but are probably harder to interpret than the ‘notes’ would imply.  

It is a delightfully splendid achievement by Danacord to have recorded these charming, but always interesting, little pieces. It leads me to wonder if there would be a market for British-born composers Felix Swinstead, Alec Rowley and Thomas Dunhill – all of whom wrote a splendid catalogue of music aimed at the younger player and suffused with evocative and innocently imaginative titles.

Track Listing:
Fini HENRIQUES (1867-1940)
Children's Poetry, op. 30 (1908)
Melodic Album, op. 50 (1919)
Miniature Water-Colours), op. 21 (1900)
Thomas Trondhjem (Piano)
Rec. St Markus Kirke, Aarhus, Denmark May 2018
See titles and timings below.
For detailed track-listing, please see Danacord Website page for this CD