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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: July 2012
Federation Concert Hall, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Produced by Ben Connellan
Engineered by Veronika Vincze
Release date: March 2014
Total duration: 19 minutes 50 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

Concerto for two pianos and string orchestra in A minor
composer
1971; first performed by Charles H Webb and Wallace Hornibrook in Melbourne in 1972; dedicated to Alice and Arthur Nagle

Lento  [7'46]
Allegro vivo  [4'57]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
In the Concerto in A minor for two pianos and string orchestra Williamson employed a series or ‘row’ as a structural device—this time a lengthier one that derives its pitch content from the letters of the names of the two American pianists who premiered the work, Charles H Webb and Wallace Hornibrook. The concerto is in fact dedicated to another duo of American pianists—Alice and Arthur Nagle, who performed the piano duo part in the composer’s In place of belief (with chorus) in Washington in 1971. The concerto was commissioned by the Australia Council and the Astra Chamber Orchestra and was premiered in Melbourne in 1972 by Webb and Hornibrook with the Astra Chamber Orchestra and conductor George Logie-Smith.

The first movement, Allegro ma non troppo, is in 5/4 time and shows the influence of Bartók in its folk-like rhythms and in the texture of its main theme, with its busy string accompaniment and octaves in the piano line. The ‘cipher-row’, as Geoffrey Álvarez terms it in his insightful analytical essay on the work (‘Malcolm’s Dancing Numbers: a study of Malcolm Williamson’s Concerto for two pianos and string orchestra’, 2008; see freespace.virgin.net/geoffrey.alvarez/malcolmsdancingnumbers.pdf), is heard in full in the first entry of Piano I and is subsequently used to form a basis for the entire concerto. It appears in each movement in an intriguing array of forms and, along with a modal ascending and descending scalic theme, creates unity from one movement to the next. In the first movement, the cipher-row is developed into an elaborate canon, while in the central Lento movement, which Williamson described as ‘plainsong-esque’, it is employed in the manner of a cantus firmus. In the final movement, a lively and percussive Allegro vivo, it is heard first in the bass line as an accompaniment to a new theme, then in a contrasting chorale-like passage, before bringing the work to a definitive conclusion when it is condensed into a final accented chord.

from notes by Carolyn Philpott © 2014

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