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The Complete Piano Music of Alan Richardson

SRCD2373
£29.99

Details

5 CD SET Alan was a complete musician – a composer, performer, teacher, and a person of extraordinary natural musicality. Small wonder then that he was viewed with profound respect by all those within the musical profession who were privileged to come into contact with him … As a pianist one was struck by his innate rhythmic verve, a facet which indeed radiated through all his compositions – but perhaps the quality above all else that will be remembered was that which can best be described as a mezzo voce bel canto, the realisation of a choice and refined ear, and the product of a deep thinker and inner tranquillity’. It is that satisfying synergy of elegant lyricism and rhythmic energy which distinguishes the keyboard works of pianist and composer Alan Richardson. [Paul Conway]

Also Available SRCD381 Discover The Piano Music of Alan Richardson

The Complete Piano Music of Alan Richardson

Reviews

Most performers, and most record companies, given the obscurity of the music, would be content to let us hear a selection of the piano pieces composed by Richardson over the course of more than forty years; but Martin Jones and Lyrita have taken the bull by the horns, providing us with what appears to be every piece that the composer wrote for piano, piano duet and two pianos extending over five well-filled discs. Moreover, they have sensibly divided the music into two CDs of ‘concert pieces’ written between 1950 and 1967, another disc of generally earlier ‘pieces without opus numbers’ (or indeed, in three instances, titles), yet another of ‘educational and grade pieces’ and a final CD of the works for piano duet and two pianos in which Martin Jones is joined by Adrian Farmer. Five of the pieces are arrangements (Rachmaninov’s Vocalise, Vivaldi, Paganini, Boccherini and Handel), and the remainder are original. The track listing is of great assistance in allocating the music to the various periods of Richardson’s career both as a composer and as a performer (with speculative dates given for some of the pieces) assisted by nine pages of copious notes by Paul Conway. There is also a single CD recently released by Lyrita which is a selection from this complete set.

Having said which, most of the music on the first disc, covering concert pieces mainly written during the 1950s, does definitely fall into the character of miniatures, charming and attractive but with no very serious claims on the attention with the exception of the first Piano Sonata of 1958 with its vivacious and catchy scherzo surrounded by two more extended movements of which the Lento sostenuto finale has a decidedly introspective atmosphere. The two sonatinas, by contrast, are more lightweight pieces and – with the exception of the Rachmaninov transcription – only one of the movements here extends much beyond three minutes. Many of the movements on the second disc of concert pieces are even shorter, although there are a couple of more substantial items including the second Piano Sonata written around 1967 with an affecting central slow movement. But the most impressive item here is the 1959 Rhapsody, Op.57, which abounds in mischievous contrasts and spectacular passages of unbridled virtuosity which of course are fully relished by Martin Jones; there is a spirit here which evokes the shade of Moeran. For some unfathomable reason the piece was not performed for fully fifteen years after its composition. The eighth movement of Kaleidoscope also grabs the attention; it was premièred in the same concert as the Rhapsody to commemorate the composer’s 70th birthday.

The use of descriptive titles also distinguishes most of the miniatures which comprise the fourth disc, devoted to “educational and grade pieces”, although it appears that some of these whimsical descriptions may have been appended as afterthoughts clearly designed to appeal to the young players at whom the exercises were aimed. A whole collection of short pieces designed primarily for the practical use of students could be bland or uninteresting (how many listeners would sit down regularly and listen to a recording of the earlier books of Bartók’s Mikrokosmos for pleasure?) but the charms of these slight pieces nevertheless has an appeal to the listener as well as the performer.

The opening items on the final disc, devoted to works for piano duet and two pianos, also fall into the general category of miniatures, and most of them were written in the period before 1946. That was also the date of the Sonata for two pianos – and this constitutes a much more substantial work than anything else on these discs, lasting nearly half an hour. The slow introduction immediately establishes a brooding presence and a slow acceleration into the main body of the opening movement is impeccably graduated in this performance. The liaison between Martin Jones and Adrian Farmer is excellently co-ordinated, with the scherzo-like material bringing a real sense of exhilaration. After that comes a central slow movement which again provides plenty of contrast and rises to impassioned heights; one might suspect the middle section to reflect Sid’s arietta from Albert Herring, were it not for the fact that Britten’s opera came a year later, and the development is decidedly more dramatic. The finale begins with a vigorous gesture, and the almost folk-like material is given a thorough-going rumbustious workout in an extended argument that occupies nearly ten minutes; indeed the first and last movements of this sonata constitute the two longest single pieces in the whole of these five CDs. Paul Conway’s remarks about this piece quoted in the opening paragraph of this review prove to be fully justified, and it makes a most satisfactory conclusion to this collection.

I cannot imagine that anybody will wish to listen through all five discs without interruption but most of the music here is entertaining, and sometimes considerably more than that. New listeners should probably begin with the Sonata for two pianos, and then explore the smaller pieces at their leisure. A most welcome discovery.