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Hyperion Records

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Home sweet home by Henry Dunkin Shepherd (fl1885-1891)
Sotheby’s Picture Library
Track(s) taken from CDH55410
Recording details: October 2002
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Martin Compton
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: May 2003
Total duration: 4 minutes 14 seconds

'[Martin] plays poetically throughout, and this for me is an unmissable collection' (The Mail on Sunday)

'You may wonder when you last heard such beguiling, fine-toned fluency … this is a delectable disc finely recorded' (Gramophone)

'Played by Philip Martin with winning insouciance' (The Independent)

'Martin makes for a sensitive, sympathetic guide … this release is a veritable treasure trove for the pianophile' (International Record Review)

'A repertoire that makes for a welcome family evening around the piano; alas for us all that we cannot offer renderings of such sympathetic finesse and lyrical elegance as are here set down by Philip Martin ‘at home’' (Classic FM)

'This repertoire is as delightful to listen to as it is to play … perfect evening listening' (Classic FM Magazine)

'If you’ve ever struggled through Badarzewska’s Maiden’s Prayer, tripped yourself up in Dvořák’s Humoresque in G flat, or wondered how the simple lines of MacDowell’s To a wild rose would sound in capable, smooth-contoured professional hands, this is the disc for you' (The Irish Times)

'Philip Martin is a pianist of great intelligence and much innate musicality; and the excellence of the recording is the final element in the equation for success' (MusicWeb International)

'77 minutes de bonheur pur sucre pour nous faire oublier la morosité de la rentrée!' (Répertoire, France)

The Maiden's Prayer

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Should we dismiss out of hand The Maiden’s Prayer, ‘this dowdy product of ineptitude’ (Arthur Loesser) that has become a comical byword for sentimental salon tosh? Most people do. It is now past parody, its title far better known than the music itself for no one plays it, not even the soppy amateurs whose territory it was and who so relished its ‘dripping, maudlin arpeggios’. Few could tell you the name of its composer. But hold! Despite the fact that it has no catchy theme to sing or hum, that its octave arpeggios are not easy to execute correctly, and that its four ‘variations’ (if one can dignify them with that term) are devoid of musical interest, The Maiden’s Prayer is probably the biggest selling piece of piano music ever written. Over one hundred editions were published in the nineteenth century and in 1924, more than sixty years after its first appearance, a Melbourne music publisher admitted to selling ten thousand copies of it a year.

Its unique status notwithstanding, little is known of the short life of its Polish composer. Tekla Badarzewska (1834–1861) wrote it when she was just seventeen and had it published in 1851 in Warsaw as Molitwa dziewicy (‘The Maiden’s Prayer’). It was republished as a supplement to the Paris Revue et Gazette Musicale in 1859 from whence it spread round the world like a plague. There are a further thirty-four piano pieces by Badarzewska, including one entitled Prayer Answered. Thankfully, it failed to capture the public’s imagination.

An ungentlemanly German critic in his obituary of Badarzewska opined that ‘[her] early death saved the musical world from a veritable inundation of intolerable lachrimosity’. Far greater composers than Badarzewska have shone brightly and profitably around the world before descending into obscurity. For better or worse The Maiden’s Prayer, if not the name of its composer, will never be forgotten. Quite an achievement for a teenage female Polish composer of the 1850s. Hard to dismiss in fact.

from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2003

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