Four Musical Sketches for Piano – II: Down Longford Way
Suite – IV: Toccata
Toccata for Piers Lane
Bach, arr. Myra Hess
Jesu, joy of man’s desiring
Delibes, arr. Ernö Dohnányi
La source – Naila Waltz
Six Romances, Op.38 – III: Daisies
Barcarolles (operatic paraphrase after Offenbach and Chopin)
A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square [arr. Regis Danillon]
Nocturne No.4 in C minor (Bal fantôme)
Bach goes to town (Prelude and Fugue in swing)
Save the Animals Suite – III: The Tiger Tango
Variations on a well-known theme
Arabesque No.1 in G flat, Op.5 (Filigran)
Beethoven Parody: ‘And the same to you’
Irish tune from County Derry
Piers Lane (piano)
Recorded 6-9 June 2012 in Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, England
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: September 2013
CD No: HYPERION CDA67967
Duration: 76 minutes
Piers Lane, one of the most versatile pianists around, presents many sides of himself in a selection of pieces that may seem topsy-turvy, incongruous even, but there are some wonderful and brilliant things here to be re-united with or discovered, and each piece is superbly played, with complete identification, and beautifully recorded too – just like a piano should sound, with all of Lane’s colours, dynamics and inflections faithfully relayed.
Lane himself writes a generous and informative booklet note, and clearly much thought has gone into the choosing and then the ordering of the nineteen miniatures played; of course one can dip in at one’s fancy, or choose a personal order, or simply press “shuffle” and let the CD player do the rest. Listened to the Lane way, we have Billy Mayerl following J. S. Bach, Rachmaninov and Zez Confrey rubbing shoulders while Arthur Benjamin rumbas and Robert Keane tangos … and the disc would not have been complete without Dudley Moore.
The disc opens in what might be thought over-contemplative mood, the chorale-like piece by Katharine ‘Kitty’ Parker (1886-1971), but it’s lovely music, sweet and seductive; 70 minutes later its counterpart will be Percy Grainger’s Irish tune from County Derry (aka ‘Londonderry Air’ or ‘Danny Boy’) – both of which Lane presents with the utmost sensitivity. Alan Lane (1932-2002) is the pianist’s father; his Toccata bustles with life and incident, and may perhaps suggest the piano music of Manuel de Falla. Even faster, in terms of tempo, is another Toccata, that by Anthony Doheny (born 1938), a capricious caper tailor-made for its dedicatee’s dazzling display.
With track four we reach the delights of John Ireland’s Ballerina, only recently published, an early version of his Columbine. Lane reveals a delightfully languorous dance, rather French (it could be included in Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales), the musical equivalent of a nightcap (a double for me!) after a busy day. What to say about track five is difficult. Words simply aren’t enough! Myra Hess’s “iconic” transcription of J. S. Bach’s ‘Jesu, joy of man’s desiring’ is simply sublime, so simple yet so penetrating to one’s inner being; I shall not hear this transporting miracle performed more movingly than by Piers Lane; it’s altogether special. Indeed, resisting the “repeat” button has proved well-nigh-impossible at times; Bach, Hess and Lane have created a but a few moments yet with a lifetime’s guarantee of harmonious escape. And I’m still not doing it justice. However track six is also a gem, Billy Mayerl’s signature-piece, Marigold, a light-music classic, played to perfection by Lane with easy-going delight.
After such balm to the ear, then the barnstorming opening to the Naila Waltz hits hard! After too lengthy a preamble the dance-measures themselves offer much old-world pleasure; so too Rachmaninov’s transcription of his song ‘Daisies’, in which enigma and melancholy entwine. How very different is Illinois-born Edward Elzear ‘Zez’ Confrey’s Dizzy Fingers (1923), a tour de force for the pianist and a winner for the listener. In Barcarolles, Mark Saya (born 1954) owes rather too much to Chopin and Offenbach; it’s all rather nice but the familiarity of the originals is distracting. Following which is an ornate arrangement of ‘A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square’, the famous melody left intact for all the many notes added to it. Then further nocturnalism with 90 seconds of Poulenc gently passing the ‘small hours’.
Bach Goes to Town by blind-from-birth Alec Templeton (1910-63) is a marvellous piece, jazzy Bach if you will, and not short on well-made counterpoint. If not quite emulating Benny Goodman’s terrific account (albeit as arranged for his Sextet), Piers Lane also wears a smile as he plays it straight. Arthur Benjamin’s Jamaican Rumba shimmers with infectious good-nature for its 56 seconds. I’m all for saving any animal, not least the tiger, and Robert Keane (born 1948) has written a Suite to help such laudable aims along. This Tango is dedicated “to my mate Piers Lane” and the sheet music is downloadable from www.robertkeane.com.au. Good luck to him. Antony Hopkins (born 1921) is perhaps best known for his BBC Radio 4 series, Talking About Music, which was always worth tuning in for. His Variations on a well-known Theme is rather fun, the tune not stated but hinted at. Clue: you may have it sung to you once a year. As for Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933), his Arabesque is a trifling matter but its pirouetting is given magic by Lane’s fingers and affection. As for Dudley Moore’s extraordinary Beethoven Parody, this has been a mainstay of Piers Lane’s encore library for some time; it’s good to have a record of it and adds another layer to our awareness of Moore’s abilities in a piece both ingenious and hilarious. And, finally, the Grainger…
Although this is a release for all seasons, with something for pianophiles everywhere and for anyone who likes rarities and surprises, with Christmas not far away this CD would also be the perfect stocking filler, numerous tasty morsels for the ears, heart and funny bone.