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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: 17 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

Sinfonia concertante in F sharp major
1958/62; for piano, three trumpets and string orchestra; dedicated to Dolly Williamson; first performed in Glasgow by Julian Dawson and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Norman Del Mar in May 1964

Crotchet = 76  [5'29]
Andante lento  [5'33]
Presto  [6'45]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Williamson composed the Sinfonia concertante in F sharp major between 1958 and 1962 and originally intended it to be his Symphony No 2 (Laudes); however, the concertante-like nature of the solo piano and trumpet trio pitted against the string orchestra, as well as the comparative brevity of the work, led to a reconsideration of the title. As with the first symphony, each movement of the proposed second originally carried a religious superscription on the manuscript: ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo’, ‘Salve Regina’, and ‘Gloria Patri’, respectively. Williamson dedicated the work to his wife, Dolly, and it was premiered in May 1964 in Glasgow by pianist Julian Dawson and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Norman Del Mar. One of Williamson’s more ‘serious’ or introspective works, it is characteristic of his compositional language in its employment of serial devices within a tonal framework, as well as in its tight thematic organization and rhythmic vitality.

The sonata-form first movement opens with a chant-like motif which is played by the piano in octaves and supported by sustained chords from the trumpets. This motif, which sounds out the syllabic pattern of the original subtitle ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo’, contains the principal material for the entire work. The strings join the texture in the percussive section that follows, which bears a striking similarity to the ‘Danse des adolescentes’ from Stravinsky’s Le sacre du Printemps (1911–13) in its emphatic off-beats and static harmonies. The chant-like theme is inverted to form the quieter second subject and in the recapitulation the thematic material of the exposition appears in reverse order. The slow movement, Andante lento, is in 3/8 throughout and presents its material in one lengthy melodic arc—beginning with muted strings and gradually building to a powerful climax for the full ensemble, before decreasing in volume and intensity to bring the movement to a tranquil conclusion. The finale, marked Presto, is the longest movement and is essentially a rondo, with variations to its recurring material. Like the first movement, it is highly rhythmic and reiterates the tonality of F sharp, as well as making reference to the ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo’ motif. Following a restless piano cadenza, the work draws to a close with an extended coda, in which the ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo’ motif again reigns supreme.

from notes by Carolyn Philpott © 2014

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