Steve Moffatt
Limelight, Australia
June 2024

Australia’s foremost pianist Piers Lane is a busy man. When he’s not in the recording studio he is performing one of the 100 piano concertos he knows, giving solo or chamber recitals, judging and organising competitions or broadcasting for the BBC. In between times he is running the Sydney International Piano Competition.

His extensive catalogue of albums for Hyperion is being expanded with the release of this magical collection of Russian variations on folk tunes from four composers. It starts with the modest but delightful 1818 variations by Irish pianist and composer John Field, who spent most of his career in St Petersburg and Moscow, flogging pianos for Muzio Clementi. Best known for inventing the nocturne, this work shows he was an improviser with a smooth technique.

More substantial is Alexander Glazunov’s Theme and Variations from 1900, based on what is thought to be a Finnish folk tune. If the Field was a nice warm-up, this 20-minute set allows Lane to flex his considerable pianistic muscles.

Tchaikovsky’s Six morceaux composés sur un seule theme from 1873 were composed for Anton Rubinstein—he didn’t include them in his repertoire until 10 years later, to Tchaikovsky’s chagrin—and are often heard performed separately as recital stocking fillers. Played in one sitting they form a potent set.

Rachmaninov’s Variations on a theme of Chopin need little introduction. In just under 30 minutes, he squeezes the pips out of Chopin’s C minor Prelude No 20. Lane’s performance here, as elsewhere on this superb disc, is exemplary.

Limelight, Australia