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Track(s) taken from CDA66884

Irish tune from County Derry

1911; British Folk Music Settings No 6; aslo known as 'Londonderry Air'

Marc-André Hamelin (piano)
Recording details: January 1996
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: October 1996
Total duration: 3 minutes 26 seconds

Other recordings available for download

Piers Lane (piano)
The Cambridge Singers, John Rutter (conductor)


'Hamelin's pleasure in this repertoire—challenging to the pianist, delightful to the listener—is manifest in every bar' (BBC Music Magazine)

'The wizardry of Grainger's invention is never out of step with Hamelin's fingers—all 20 (or so it seems) of them. Try and keep your lower jaw in place as [he] negotiates Grainger's 'cakewalk smasher' In Dahomey' (The Independent)

'One of the most brilliant and sensitive young pianists we have on the scene today. His technique is formidable: the more fiendishly difficult a piece is, the more spectacularly he plays it. Yet … what sets him apart as a pianist is his uncanny ability to melt your heart' (Financial Times)

'This hugely enjoyable recital is a distinguished addition to Hamelin's already remarkable discography' (Hi-Fi News)

'Definitely a contender for piano record of the year' (San Francisco Examiner)

'Marc-André Hamelin's Grainger disc must stand as one of the best that could ever possibly be made. The powers Hamelin has at his disposal are endless. A colossal musician' (Soundscapes, Australia)

'Ici l'interprète se doit de broyer l'ivoire, et l'étourdissante technique de Marc-André Hamelin s'y entend à merveille! Si l'on ajoute son extrême délicatesse de toucher, son phrasé lyrique et chaleureux trouvant d'instinct le chemin du coeur, on comprendra que ces prouesses pianistiques laissent pantois, ému au point que l'on ne sait plus très bien si l'on rit, mais on tout cas pris aux tripes' (Diapason, France)

'Grainger demanda tanto una agilidad sorprendente como gran delicadeza en el fraseo, virtudes ambas que posee el solista canadiense' (CD Compact, Spain)
As a loyal Australian I might be expected to appreciate the music of Percy Grainger (1882–1961), but I can’t imagine anyone not appreciating it. It’s so filled with humanity and imagination and glorious understanding of the instrument—nowhere better illustrated than in this setting of the Londonderry Air: Irish tune from County Derry (British Folk-Music Settings No 6). Grainger found it in The Petrie Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland. It had been submitted to the music collector George Petrie for publication in 1855, after Miss Jane Ross collected it from a local fiddle player. Grainger wrote:

For the following beautiful air I have to express my very grateful acknowledgement to Miss J. Ross, of New Town, Limavady, in the County of Londonderry—a lady who has made a large collection of the popular unpublished melodies of the county, which she has very kindly placed at my disposal, and which has added very considerably to the stock of tunes which I had previously acquired from that still very Irish county. I say still very Irish, for though it has been planted for more than two centuries by English and Scottish settlers, the old Irish race still forms the great majority of its peasant inhabitants; and there are few, if any counties in which, with less foreign admixture, the ancient melodies of the country have been so extensively preserved. The name of the tune unfortunately was not ascertained by Miss Ross, who sent it to me with the simple remark that it was ‘very old’, in the correctness of which statement I have no hesitation in expressing my perfect concurrence.

In 1902 Grainger set it for an a cappella mixed chorus. The solo piano version dates from 1911, but he arranged it eight times in all, including a rich version for piano quintet, which I’ve also enjoyed playing. The solo piano arrangement, with its tune starting in the tenor register, reminds one of all the sung Danny Boys one has ever heard. Grainger, like Chopin before him, knew perfectly how to make a piano sing. He also knew a thing or two about the emotional pull of certain harmonies. His fastidious pedal and expression marks complicate the page, but reveal again how much the man cared about music and its communication.

from notes by Piers Lane © 2013

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