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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: 15 minutes 47 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

'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' ( » 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

Piano Concerto No 2 in F sharp minor
1960; for piano and string orchestra; dedicated to Elaine Goldberg

Allegro con brio  [4'23]
Andante lento  [7'09]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Williamson composed the Piano Concerto No 2 in F sharp minor over a period of just eight days in late 1960 for a competition requiring a concerto for piano and string orchestra sponsored by the Department of Music and the Choral Society of the University of Western Australia. To his delight, it won a prize and in May 1962 it was premiered by Michael Brimer and the University of Western Australia String Orchestra conducted by Frank Callaway. At this time Williamson’s career as a pianist was at its height, and he subsequently performed the work himself in venues across the world. He described the concerto as ‘an overtly Australian work aiming at spontaneity and vigour rather than profundity’, and in his preface to the revised score he conceded: ‘For me this concerto is a serious parody, a necessary reaction at the time of my First Symphony, my Sinfonia concertante and other works of a more serious interior nature. I mean no parody of any classic, of mediæval music or even a parody of the parodists; it is a parody of myself.’

Although fundamentally a monothematic work, this concerto incorporates a range of musical styles, or ‘densities’, that can be seen as broadly representative of Williamson’s eclectic musical language. His encounters with the music of George Gershwin and Richard Rodgers, for example, are evident in the exuberant outer movements (marked Allegro con brio and Allegro con spirito, respectively) with their lively, syncopated rhythms and catchy melodies. Simultaneously, the crisp, transparent textures and rhythmic inflections in these movements reflect the influence of Stravinsky and Bartók. In fact, one of the themes in the final movement quotes the finale of Stravinsky’s Firebird directly, a particularly apt borrowing given that the concerto was composed exactly fifty years after the ballet was written and premiered. In contrast, the central Andante lento movement is more introspective and reflective; it opens with a solemn canon for the strings before ushering in a poignant chant-like theme, which was perhaps inspired by the Jewish heritage of the work’s dedicatee, Elaine Goldberg, a talented pianist and the cousin of Williamson’s wife, Dolly.

from notes by Carolyn Philpott © 2014

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