Classical CD Reviews


Piers Lane shares a collection of Twentieth Century encores that offer grace, wit, and exquisite charm, each played by a brilliant technician who has the poet’s touch.

Published on September 14, 2013

Piers Lane Goes to Town” = PARKER: Down Langford Way; LANE: Toccata; DOHENY: Toccata for Piers Lane; IRELAND: Ballerina; BACH (arr. Hess): Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring; MAYERL: Marigold; DELIBES: Naila Waltz; RACHMANINOV: Daisies; CONFREY: Dizzy Fingers; SAYA: Barcarolles; SHERWIN: A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square; POULENC: Nocturne No. 4 in C Minor “Bal Fantome”; TEMPLETON: Bach Goes to Town; BENJAMIN: Jamaican Rumba; KARG-ELERT: Arabesque No. 1; KEANE: The Tiger Tango; HOPKINS: Variations on a Well-Known Theme; MOORE: Beethoven Parody: “And the Same to You”; GRAINGER: Irish Tune from County Derry – Piers Lane, piano – Hyperion CDA67967, 76:10 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****: 

Pianist Piers Lane provides us (rec. 6-8 June 2012) with twenty Twentieth-Century encores that have endured among his favorite pieces.  Lane has made a point of including a hearty selection of Australian composers, some of whom wrote pieces specifically with him in mind. Kity Parker’s melodious Down Longford Way (1928) in E-flat Major opens the program, and Percy Grainger’s 1911 setting of the Londonderry Air in E-flat Major closes a vast musical excursion, rather in the spirit of Poulenc’s boulevardier ethos.

The Alan Lane (1932-2002) represented by a flowing, chromatic 1957 Toccata turns out to be Piers Lane’s father. A fleet Toccata for Piers Lane by Stanford Lecturer in Music Anthony Doheny (b. 1938) proves a worthy vehicle in bold flights of fancy, rather in the style of Moszkowski. John Ireland’s 1951 Ballerina (aka Columbine) receives its debut recording. A moody and restrained passion suffuses the piece, which often suggests one of Debussy’s Arabesques. The Myra Hess 1926 arrangement of Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring hardly needs verbal elaboration; but Lane informs us that a show called Admission: One Shilling exploits the Hess wartime concerts at the National Gallery as a means of celebrating her contribution to British music, with a solid appearance of this eternal musical moment.

The mood changes rapidly with the jazzy Marigold of Billy Mayerl (1902-1959), which enjoys the syncopes of a soft shoe dance. The 1887 Naila Waltz of Delibes, as arranged by Erno Dohnanyi, a favorite of Geza Anda and Gyorgy Sandor, proves resonantly effective, especially as Lane credits his affection for the bravura piece to his mother. The 1916 romance Daisies by Rachmaninov asks Lane to provide an olfactory component to his playing, subtle and delicately voiced. The 1921 Dizzy Fingers of Zez Confrey had an acolyte in Eddie Duchin, and Piers Lane makes it move like a blizzard etude. The 2011 Barcarolles of Mark Saya (b. 1954) begin with chords from Offenbach verbatim and then proceed to incorporate the flutterings and metric shifts from the Chopin Op. 60 Barcarolle in counterpoint.

Lane debuts Manning Sherwin’s 1939 A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square (arr. Regis Danillon), a work that seems to combine Debussy and Gershwin, and perhaps a bit of night-club arpeggios. The Poulenc Nocturne No. 4 from 1934 wafts brief and melancholy, with a hint of Chopin’s Prelude in A Major.  Alec Templeton’s Bach goes to town delivers a swing piece in the form of a Prelude and Fugue. Lane proves it “doesn’t have to be ponderous to be good.” The perennial charmer, Benjamin’s 1945 Jamaican Rumba, scampers by. A sexier moment ensues with The Tiger Tango by Robert Keane (b. 1948), a clever piece that employs a musical anagram of the word “tiger” set in solfege. Antony Hopkins (b. 1921) achieved fame with his radio program, Talking about Music on the BBC. His extended piece Variations on a Well-Known Theme (1976) enjoys at first a Mozartean wit in the course of “Happy Birthday” and its permutations. Musical history infuses the piece, for the groups of variations then progress through brilliant imitations of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Chopin, Brahms, Wagner, Liszt, and Prokofiev. Essentially, we hear how well Piers Lane might explore any of these national and virtuoso styles.

Composer Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933) came to Piers Lane via his teacher William Lovelock. The Arabesque No. 1 in G-flat Major “Filgran,” Op. 5 (1900) conveys the “water” impulse in the keyboard as well as Debussy or Sinding, its elegant line even suggesting the lyrical side of Liszt. Dudley Moore (1935-2002) could find comedy in all manner of experience, and his innate musicality easily accommodated the theatrical medium. His Beethoven Parody splices the Moonlight Sonata to the Colonel Bogey March to a series of weird cadences, including Fernando’s Hide-a-way tango. The C Minor tremolos and canny modulations testify to a well-wrought Classical training, concentrated into a wild emulsion of Beethoven “procedures,” or at least antics. At last, Percy Grainger (1882-1961) has his elegant glory in setting the Irish Tune from County Derry (1911) as a piano solo. The singing tone of Lane’s Steinway – courtesy of engineer Ben Connellan – bestows an easy majesty on this familiar air.

—Gary Lemco

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