The Grand Tour: Park Lane Group 50th-Anniversary Season – 50 piano pieces played by Andrew Ball

“A circumnavigation of the pianists’ globe with a personal selection of 50 short piano pieces. Played as a sequence which will hop back and forth across centuries, the juxtapositions will produce some extraordinary resonances and surprises…”

Group 1

Erik Satie (1866-1925)
Sports et Divertissements – Choral inappétissant
Helmut Lachenmann (b. 1935)
Ein kindespiel – Hänschen klein
Giles Farnaby
(c. 1563-1640)
Giles Farnaby’s Dream
Karlheinz Stockhausen (b. 1928)
Klavierstück III
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Album for the Young, Op.68 – Sheherazade
Charles Ives (1874-1954)
Study No.22
John Woolrich (b. 1954)
Pianobook 6 – Little piano machine
Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915)
Prelude, Op.74/4
Gerald Barry (b. 1952)
Swinging Tripes and Trillibubkins

Group 2

Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
6 Morceaux, Op.19 – Feuillet d’album
Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
Prelude in D minor, Op. posth.
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)
Aphorisms, Op.13 – Totentanz
William Mival (b. 1959)
For the Piano of M. Ferrer [World premiere]
Bernd Alois Zimmerman (1918-1970)
L’après-midi d’un Puck
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Klavierstuck, Woo 60
Anton Reicha (1770-1836)
36 Fugues – No.8
Charles-Valentin Alkan (1813-1888)
48 Esquises, Op.63 – Les enharmoniques
Study, Op.33/10

Group 3

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1787)
Marche funèbre del Signor Maestro Contrapunta
Alexander Goehr (b. 1932)Symmetry Disorders Reach, Op.73 – Fughetta
Béla Bartók (1881-1945)
7 Sketches, Op.9 – Portrait of a Girl
Claude Debussy (1862-1919)
Les soirs allumés par l’ardeur du charbon
Roberto Gerhard (1896-1970)
Dos apunts – No.1
Simon Holt (b. 1958)
Johann Jacob Froberger (1616-1667)
Lamento (Lament on the Sad Death of His Royal Majesty Ferdinand IV, King of the Romans)
Peter Lieberson (b. 1946)
Fantasy Pieces – Memory’s Luminous Wind


Group 4

Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924)
Albumleaf No.2
Benedict Mason (b. 1954)
Homage to Busoni [World premiere]
György Kurtág (b. 1926)
JÁTÉKOK, Book III – Hommage à Márta Kurtág
Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)
Lyric Pieces, Op.54 – Bell ringing
Morgan Hayes (b. 1973)
Wigmore Hall
Simon Rowland-Jones (b. 1950)
A Very Fast Two-Part Invention [London premiere]
Michael Zev Gordon (b. 1963)
Crystal Clear
Stephen Hough (b. 1961)
Valse Enigmatique No.3 (Un Ballo in Maschera) [London premiere]

Group 5

Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)
Improvisation No 14 in D flat
James MacMillan (b. 1959)
Barncleupédie (with apologies to Erik Satie)
Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894)
Feuillet d’album
Mark-Anthony Turnage (b. 1960)
True Life Stories – No.5: Tune for Toru
John Cage (1912-1993)
A Room
Stanley Glasser
(b. 1926)
Bric-à-Brac – Set 8, No.29: Pause for a thought [World premiere]
Judith Weir (b. 1954)
Michael’s Strathspey

Group 6

Carl Nielsen (1865-1931)
The Dream of Merry Christmas
Morton Feldman (1926-1987)
Intermission 3 (1952)
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
Préludes, Op.103 – No.3 in G minor
Howard Skempton (b. 1947)
Saltaire Melody
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Leos Janáček (1854-1928)
Louis Andriessen (b. 1939)
Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
No.3 of ‘5 little piano pieces’
Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)
Sins of my old age – Petite Pensée


Mompou (1893-1987)
Scènes d’enfants – Jeunes filles au jardin

Andrew Ball (piano)

Reviewed by: Edward Lewis

Reviewed: 3 December, 2005
Venue: Purcell Room, London

This celebratory concert, recognising fifty years of the Park Lane Group, was a work of superb programming. Choosing one piece for each of the fifty years, Andrew Ball assembled a sparkling, intelligent and highly enjoyable programme. At first glance, one would have thought the evening would be akin to pressing the ‘random’ button on a remote control, but it very quickly became apparent that this was far from the process Ball used. With a prominence of twentieth-century and contemporary music, the flow of the concert had been carefully judged, with each short piece somehow relevant to those around it. In addition, Ball had selected a number of undeservedly lesser-known works, such as Shostakovich’s incredibly cheeky Totentanz, Debussy’s Les soirs allumés par l’ardeur du charbon (written for his coal-merchant!), and Rossini’s Petite Pensée.

Looking at my notes made at the evening itself gives an idea of Ball’s playing – words that repeatedly occur are ‘intelligent’, ‘sensitive’, ‘witty’, ‘subtlety’ and ‘mastery’. One couldn’t hope, or indeed want, to comment on every piece, but several stand out for different reasons. Among the fifty works were five premieres (three ‘world’ and two ‘London’), each noteworthy in their own way.

William Mival’s For the Piano of M. Ferrer appeared to capture perfectly a musical thought in a tiny instant, rendered clearly and concisely by Ball. Benedict Mason’s Homage to Busoni proved more enigmatic, directly following Busoni’s own Albumleaf No.2, here tenderly played. Mason explores a rich harmonic language with surprising intensity and directness, and the piece was played with due reverence. In his memorial to his former colleague John Blacking, Pause For Thought, Stanley Glasser captured an apparently quirky character with obvious insight, enhanced by Ball’s own intelligently thoughtful playing.

A fantastic injection of energy was provided by the London premiere of Simon Rowland-Jones’s A Very Fast Two-Part Invention, with Ball’s customary sparkle illuminating the incredibly rapid music, made captivating through its wit and effervescence. Of yet again contrasting nature was Stephen Hough’s highly enjoyable Valse Enigmatique No.3, using Ball’s own initials as the main theme. The intrinsic humour of the music was evident in Ball’s touch, and his own enjoyment of the music became ever more apparent.

With such a wide range of repertoire, the audience was treated to many different sides of Ball’s playing. For me, several pieces stood out in terms of Ball’s often-unique approach and interpretation. The salon nature of Tchaikovsky’s Feuillet d’album was skilfully avoided through a discriminating use of tonal variation, and the afore-mentioned Debussy was at once beautifully shapely, touching and firm.

Ball’s love of more contemporary styles shone through in Szymanowski’s Study – Ball picked his way through the complex melodic web with a shiningly natural feel for the music. His mastery of the more subtle dynamic and tonal ranges afforded by the instrument was clearly displayed in Kurtág’s moving Hommage à Márta Kurtág, and his ability to infuse a work with powerful emotions was amply demonstrated by his intense rendition the Fauré Prelude.

Perhaps the most memorable insight into Ball’s approach came with Froberger’s Lamento. His extremely Romantic interpretation, played with evident pleasure, served to highlight the intrinsic harmonic intricacies of the music, giving shape, phrasing and new life to the piece. The beauty of Ball’s playing hung in the air as the audience, as one, held its breath as the gloriously rendered harmonic progression continued. To conclude the work, Ball gave a simple ascending two-octave scale more musicality and inner life than I would have thought possible.

One left the concert not only feeling educated by the previous two hours of music, but also convinced in Ball’s musicality and mastery of the piano, sure in the conviction that every note, pause, dynamic and articulation had been deeply considered, and given new meaning.

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