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Hyperion Records

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Piano (2002) by Glen Preece (b1957)
Private Collection / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA68011/2
Recording details: April 2013
Federation Concert Hall, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Produced by Ben Connellan
Engineered by Veronika Vincze
Release date: March 2014
Total duration: 18 minutes 9 seconds

'The First Concerto’s mournful opening before a burst into hyperactive chatter makes an attractive start, its second subject as accessible as you could wish … in the 1971 Concerto for two pianos and strings, where Piers Lane is joined by Howard Shelley, everything is whipped up into an outwardly exhilarating but impersonal blend. The ghosts of Ravel, Prokofiev and Shostakovich hover close to the surface … what is memorable is Lane’s playing. Whether dazzling or reflective, he shows a total empathy for Williamson. He is superbly partnered by Shelley and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. Sound and balance are outstanding, and Hyperion’s presentation is both lavish and informative' (Gramophone) » More

'The late Malcolm Williamson may have had his unruly side, but he was vastly and variously gifted; it is high time the best of his teeming output was revalued. Here we have all four of his numbered piano concertos—No 4 is given its first airing on CD—plus the two-piano Concerto in A minor and the Sinfonia Concertante with its piano obbligato, collected together for the first time. Piers Lane is the tireless soloist, crisply percussive or touchingly lyrical as required, and Howard Shelley conducts with efficiency and conviction' (BBC Music Magazine) » More
PERFORMANCE
RECORDING

'Performances are very good indeed … and Piers Lane and Howard Shelley are persuasive advocates for this music (Shelley is also the second pianist in the Concerto for two pianos). Anyone who is interested in Australian music should, of course, acquire this disc, but I sincerely hope that it will also have a much wider impact and help to reinstate Williamson’s work in the concert repertoire' (International Record Review) » More

'Master of the Queen’s Music from 1975 until his death in 2003—a post that becomes free again this month—Australian-born composer Malcolm Williamson left a body of work scarcely performed today … his six freewheeling piano concertos are often reminiscent of Poulenc, sometimes of Bernstein … a box of surprises' (The Independent on Sunday) » More

'Australian-born but UK-domiciled Malcolm Williamson (1931-2003) was once the most commissioned composer of his time … he is little played now and few discs devoted to his music seem readily available either here or down under. This two-disc set from Hyperion makes handsome amends in collating all his piano concertos, composed between 1957 and 1994. The solo parts demand virtuosity and energy in equal measure, and Piers Lane sparkles inexhaustibly … compulsively listenable … an absorbing and highly entertaining experience' (International Piano) » More

'Williamson is a fascinating composer who wrote temperamental music without any hint of academia in its bloodstream. This very special and extremely attractive set will further enhance his standing. Superb music and music-making' (MusicWeb International) » More

'Just what the musical doctor ordered! A very welcome chance to extend our appreciation of a terrific if underrated composer … this is marvellous stuff, music of dazzling invention, disarming wit (and not the sort you tire of), generosity of spirit and a lust for life (although, sadly, Williamson’s last years were wracked with illnesses). Admirers of Bartók’s and Prokofiev’s piano concertos will find much here to enjoy, so too those who relish song, dance, irony and a big heart, and a composer capable of being acerbic and romantic in equal measure. To all concerned with the making of this release, take an award … no, take several' (ClassicalSource.com) » More

'Le Concerto pour deux pianos et cordes (1971), instaure une ambiance davantage tendue et moderniste : rythmes acérés, cordes plus froides, mélodies assez heurtées … étrange Lento semblant venir tout droit des Premiers hommes dans la Lune de H.G. Wells; les harmonies des pianos mêlées aux cordes angéliques dans les aigus rappellent Messiaen … défendu avec conviction et sa technique brillante par Piers Lane' (Diapason, France) » More
PERFORMANCE
RECORDING

Piano Concerto No 1 in A major
composer
1957/8; dedicated to Clive Lythgoe who gave the first performance with the Hallé Orchestra under Baribrolli at the Cheltenham Festival in July 1958

Andantino  [6'06]
Poco presto  [5'10]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Piano Concerto No 1 in A major was composed between 1957 and 1958 and is dedicated to Clive Lythgoe, who gave the first performance of the work at the Cheltenham Festival in July 1958 with the Hallé orchestra conducted by Sir John Barbirolli. Lythgoe was contracted to perform the work again the following year at the BBC Proms; however, immediately prior to the event he sustained an arm injury, leaving Williamson with little option but to fulfil the role of soloist himself, which he did with great aplomb. He described the concerto as ‘lightweight’ compared to his other works of the period; indeed, it was among the first tonally oriented works that he produced following his studies with Lutyens.

The first movement, which opens and closes Poco lento, is built upon a single melodic idea that is first introduced by the strings in the slow introduction. In the main Allegro section, this theme is presented in various guises—at first it appears in a lively syncopated passage written for the piano and later it is transformed through the inversion of some of its intervals into a striking, lyrical melody that is passed between various instruments in the orchestra. The same series of pitches is also used as the primary source material for each of the remaining two movements. In the Andantino, the series is used to create a darker, brooding character, while in the lively rondo finale (Poco presto), it appears in the grandiose main theme, which itself reflects Williamson’s exposure to popular music in London’s nightclubs and recalls the tunefulness of his overture Santiago de Espada (1957). Although the concerto is essentially monothematic, the diverse treatment of the initial germinal idea shows Williamson’s ingenuity and his already abundant skills as a melodist and as a writer of challenging, idiomatic music for the piano.

from notes by Carolyn Philpott © 2014

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