Cyril Smith and Phyllis Sellick - Music for Three Hands
The piano-duet partnership of Cyril Smith and Phyllis Sellick was legendary. Held in high regard all over the world, their uniquely sensitive approach to the duet repertoire was supported by a virtuoso technique. This disc constitutes their last recording, made only a month before Cyril Smith’s death in 1974.
These pieces have been arranged, of course, for three hands—the Faure by Cyril Smith, the others by John Odom—and the job was effectively done. In the case of the Franck the texture has been discreetly added to, with the Faure it has been slightly reduced. Actually, the latter works perfectly well as a piano solo (in Cortot's transcription), so there is little room for complaint. The Mendelssohn, a fine and elaborate piece, all bustling activity, and with the original four-hand parts closely interwoven, was probably a more difficult adaptation to make, yet it is equally successful.
Certainly all three performances are enjoyable, and the recording is extremely lifelike. Note the undulating flexibility of the Franck Prelude's arpeggios, for example; in fact this whole movement is done with a most apt meditative sweetness. There is a beautiful matching of the three hands in the spread chords of the Chorale, also. This interpretation of Faure's Dolly is, like the music itself, by turns sprightly ("Mi-a-ou") and tender ("Berceuse"). I prefer this to the only conventional four-handed version that is currently available, by Walter and Beatrice Klien (Turnabout TV34234S, 11/70), which is sensitive yet not particularly idiomatic.