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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: 30 minutes 5 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 3 in E flat major
1962; dedicated to John Ogdon who gave the first performance with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra under Joseph Post in June 1964

Toccata: Allegro  [7'02]
Ben allegro  [4'51]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Piano Concerto No 3 in E flat major was composed just two years after No 2 and also had its premiere in Australia (in June 1964 by John Ogdon, the dedicatee, and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra conducted by Joseph Post). The work was commissioned by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australasian Performing Right Association and was later made into the ballet Have steps will travel, which was choreographed for the National Ballet of Canada by John Alleyne and first performed in 1988. The third concerto is the largest—and in many respects the most complex—of Williamson’s piano concertos. He chose to write it in four movements in order to avoid scherzo-like figurations in the outer movements and to balance out the substantial slow movement, which he felt would otherwise ‘up-end its neighbours’.

The thematic material of the entire concerto derives from the interval of a perfect fifth and a selection of the intervallic relationships that fall within this interval. This creates a coherent relationship between each of the movements, helping to fuse together materials of widely disparate styles. The opening Toccata, marked Allegro, is so-named because of its motoric rhythms and the varied types of keyboard touch required of the pianist. It is in the traditional bravura style associated with the form and features two clearly contrasted themes that are in themselves related intervallically. The virtuosic second movement is a brilliant scherzo, marked Allegro (Allegretto), that features unconventional time signatures such as 11/16 and 10/16 and shifting divisions of the bar. In contrast, the slow third movement (Molto largo e cantando) does not stray from its basic 3/2 time signature. It is cast as a set of variations on a gentle cantilena theme played at the outset by the piano, with a cadenza inserted before the final variation. The finale (Ben allegro) is again rhythmically elaborate, but is more obviously melodic and extroverted in character than the first movement, as—in Williamson’s words—‘the piano engages a more buoyant orchestra in a combative dance’.

from notes by Carolyn Philpott © 2014

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