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Track(s) taken from CDA68011/2

Concerto for two pianos and string orchestra in A minor

1971; first performed by Charles H Webb and Wallace Hornibrook in Melbourne in 1972; dedicated to Alice and Arthur Nagle

Piers Lane (piano), Howard Shelley (piano), Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Howard Shelley (conductor)
Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Studio Master:
Studio Master:
Recording details: July 2012
Federation Concert Hall, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Produced by Ben Connellan
Engineered by Veronika Vincze
Release date: March 2014
Total duration: 19 minutes 50 seconds

Cover artwork: Piano (2002) by Glen Preece (b1957)
Private Collection / Bridgeman Art Library, London


'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)

'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' (Classical Source)» 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

'Die sechs Konzerte werden von Piers Lane mit einem Maximum an Differenzierungsvermögen gespielt, und da auch Howard Shelley aus dem Orchester viele Farben herausholt, findet Malcolm Williamsen mit ihnen engagierte Interpreten, die seine Musik optimal zur Wirkung bringen' (Pizzicato, Luxembourg)» More

'With their virtuoso rhythmic fast movements and beautiful Largos or Andantes Malcolm Williamson’s Piano Concertos are quite enjoyable. The music is well served by the very active Piers Lane and the Tasmanian Symphony under Howard Shelley' (Pizzicato, Luxembourg)

In the Concerto in A minor for two pianos and string orchestra Williamson employed a series or ‘row’ as a structural device—this time a lengthier one that derives its pitch content from the letters of the names of the two American pianists who premiered the work, Charles H Webb and Wallace Hornibrook. The concerto is in fact dedicated to another duo of American pianists—Alice and Arthur Nagle, who performed the piano duo part in the composer’s In place of belief (with chorus) in Washington in 1971. The concerto was commissioned by the Australia Council and the Astra Chamber Orchestra and was premiered in Melbourne in 1972 by Webb and Hornibrook with the Astra Chamber Orchestra and conductor George Logie-Smith.

The first movement, Allegro ma non troppo, is in 5/4 time and shows the influence of Bartók in its folk-like rhythms and in the texture of its main theme, with its busy string accompaniment and octaves in the piano line. The ‘cipher-row’, as Geoffrey Álvarez terms it in his insightful analytical essay on the work (‘Malcolm’s Dancing Numbers: a study of Malcolm Williamson’s Concerto for two pianos and string orchestra’, 2008; see freespace.virgin.net/geoffrey.alvarez/malcolmsdancingnumbers.pdf), is heard in full in the first entry of Piano I and is subsequently used to form a basis for the entire concerto. It appears in each movement in an intriguing array of forms and, along with a modal ascending and descending scalic theme, creates unity from one movement to the next. In the first movement, the cipher-row is developed into an elaborate canon, while in the central Lento movement, which Williamson described as ‘plainsong-esque’, it is employed in the manner of a cantus firmus. In the final movement, a lively and percussive Allegro vivo, it is heard first in the bass line as an accompaniment to a new theme, then in a contrasting chorale-like passage, before bringing the work to a definitive conclusion when it is condensed into a final accented chord.

from notes by Carolyn Philpott © 2014

Dans le Concerto en la mineur pour deux pianos et orchestre à cordes, Williamson utilise un dispositif structurel en forme de série ou «rangée»—cette fois une série plus longue dont les notes proviennent des lettres formant les noms des deux pianistes américains qui créèrent cette œuvre, Charles H. Webb et Wallace Hornibrook. Ce concerto est en fait dédié à un autre duo de pianistes américains—Alice et Arthur Nagle—qui jouèrent les parties de piano dans In place of belief (avec chœur) de Williamson, à Washington en 1971. Le concerto est une commande de l’Australia Council et de l’Astra Chamber Orchestra; il fut créé à Melbourne, en 1972, par Webb et Hornibrook avec l’Astra Chamber Orchestra sous la direction de George Logie-Smith.

Le premier mouvement, Allegro ma non troppo, à 5/4, montre l’influence de Bartók dans ses rythmes de musique traditionnelle et dans la texture de son thème principal, avec un accompagnement chargé aux cordes et des octaves dans la ligne du piano. La «rangée de chiffres» comme la qualifie Geoffrey Álvarez dans son excellente analyse de cette œuvre («Malcolm’s Dancing Numbers: a study of Malcolm Williamson’s Concerto for two pianos and string orchestra», 2008; voir freespace.virgin.net/geoffrey.alvarez/malcolmsdancingnumbers.pdf), est exposée intégralement à la première entrée du Piano I et est ensuite utilisée comme base de tout le concerto. Elle apparaît à chaque mouvement dans un déploiement intrigant de formes en même temps qu’un thème en gammes ascendantes et descendantes, ce qui crée l’unité d’un mouvement à l’autre. Dans le premier mouvement, la rangée de chiffres est développée en un canon élaboré, alors que dans le mouvement central Lento, que Williamson qualifie de «plain-chant-esque», elle est employée à la manière d’un cantus firmus. Dans le finale, un Allegro vivo vif et percutant, on l’entend tout d’abord à la basse comme accompagnement d’un nouveau thème, puis dans un passage contrasté de choral, avant de mener l’œuvre à une conclusion définitive où elle est condensée en un accord final accentué.

extrait des notes rédigées par Carolyn Philpott © 2014
Français: Marie-Stella Pâris

Im Konzert in a-Moll für zwei Klaviere und Streichorchester hat Williamson eine Reihe zur Strukturierung verwendet—diesmal eine längere, deren Tonhöhen von den Buchstaben in den Namen der beiden amerikanischen Pianisten bestimmt ist, Charles H. Webb und Wallace Hornibrook, die das Werk uraufgeführt haben. Das Konzert ist eigentlich einem anderen amerikanischen Pianistenduo gewidmet—Alice und Arthur Nagle, die 1971 den Klavierduopart in Williamsons In place of belief (mit Chor) in Washington gespielt haben. Das Konzert war ein Auftragswerk des Australia Council und des Astra Chamber Orchestra und wurde 1972 in Melbourne von Webb und Hornibrook mit dem Astra Chamber Orchestra unter dem Dirigenten George Logie-Smith uraufgeführt.

Der erste Satz, Allegro ma non troppo, steht im 5/4-Takt und zeigt mit seinen Volksmusikrhythmen und der Textur des Hauptthemas mit der geschäftigen Streicherbegleitung und den Oktaven der Klavierlinie den Einfluß von Bartók. Die „Ziffernreihe“, so der Begriff von Geoffrey Álvarez in seiner aufschlußreichen Analyse des Werkes („Malcolm’s Dancing Numbers: a study of Malcolm Williamson’s Concerto for two pianos and string orchestra“, 2008; s. freespace.virgin.net/geoffrey.alvarez/malcolmsdancingnumbers.pdf), erklingt vollständig beim ersten Einsatz von Klavier I und wird dann als Basis für das ganze Konzert verwendet. Sie erscheint in jedem Satz in einer Fülle faszinierender Formen und erzeugt zusammen mit einem Motiv aus modalen, auf- und absteigenden Läufen Einheitlichkeit von Satz zu Satz. Im ersten Satz entwickelt sich die Ziffernreihe zu einem kunstvollen Kanon, während sie im mittleren Satz, Lento, den Williamson als „choralartig“ bezeichnet hat, wie ein cantus firmus eingesetzt wird. Im Finalsatz, einem lebhaften und perkussiven Allegro vivo, erklingt sie zuerst in der Baßlinie als Begleitung eines neuen Themas und dann in einer kontrastierenden choralartigen Passage, bevor sie sich zu einem betonten Akkord verdichtet und das Werk damit endgültig beschließt.

aus dem Begleittext von Carolyn Philpott © 2014
Deutsch: Christiane Frobenius

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