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Hyperion Records

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View of a Mediterranean Port by Angelo Garino
Sotheby’s Picture Library
Track(s) taken from CDA67037
Recording details: December 1997
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Produced by Amanda Hurton
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: October 1998
Total duration: 21 minutes 7 seconds

'Lively and sensitive performances make this a fine addition to the Saint-Saëns discography, aided by the pianist's own excellent annotations and Hyperion's usual peerless sound' (Fanfare, USA)

'Piers Lane plays with a blend of grace and expertise which makes light of the many challenges offered by music which tests any artist to the full. Every bar is sheer delight' (Musical Opinion)

Six Études, Op 111

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Opus 111 was written in 1899. As with Opus 52, each étude is dedicated to a well-known virtuoso; again there is an emphasis on double-note technique. I have a great affection for the first piece, Tierces majeures et mineures dedicated to Arthur de Greef. It pays homage to Chopin’s infamous Op 25 No 6, sharing the ghoulish key of G sharp minor and recalling the opening trill figure. To make things difficult, though, it calls for the right-hand thumb to hold down notes, forcing the use of the fingers for the thirds. It also requires left-hand participation in thirds, unlike the Chopin. Technical requirements aside, it has a touching plaintiveness quite alien to the opening étude of Op 52.

A winged poetry permeates the five-finger chromatic figures of No 2, Traits chromatiques. Surely Debussy had this étude somewhere in his subconscious when he wrote his étude, Pour les degrés chromatiques?

A rather more angular Prélude et Fugue in E flat minor displaces the impressionistic world of the first two études. Shifting quaver chords agitate a courageous, thrusting theme in the prelude, which eventually quietens into a thoughtful fugue subject, taken up in four voices and rounded off by a big finish. The seductive world of the Canary Islands is conjured up by No 4, Les cloches de Las Palmas. Repetition and the creation of atmosphere are the technical exercises involved—a rather imaginative tone poem is the result.

No 5, Tierces majeures chromatiques, again delights in the difficulty of thirds—this time major chromatic thirds. A sense of humour inflects its moto perpetuo feel. It is dedicated to Édouard Risler, probably the first truly great French-trained pianist, after Saint-Saëns himself, and a major artistic influence on Alfred Cortot.

As with Opus 52, the best piece is sensibly saved for last. The Toccata d’après le 5e Concerto is dedicated to Raoul Pugno, renowned for his brilliant deftness. Its themes, as the title suggests, are from Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No 5 (the third movement), composed three years before this étude. It pre-dates the toccatas of Debussy, Ravel and Prokofiev and has comical references to ragtime, which, in those years, was traversing the Atlantic to fervent European welcome. Octaves, left-hand leaps and arpeggiated chords are despatched with authentic pianistic imagination. It is a tour de force and deserving of a wider audience.

from notes by Piers Lane © 1998

Other albums featuring this work
'The Essential Hyperion, Vol. 2' (HYP20)
The Essential Hyperion, Vol. 2
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