Collection: Piano Duos

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Pianissimo PP
WORKS: Vol. 1 Jamaican Rumba, A Lincolnshire Posy, The Nutcracker, Hexentanz, Hungarian Rhapsody
PERFORMER: Martin Jones & Richard McMahon (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 11192 DDD

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Those who have witnessed occasions on which two great pianists have got together as a duo and signally failed to create any sense of ensemble will know how difficult duetting on one or two pianos can be. No such problem with these two discs on which two seasoned duos can be heard at their most expert. The first, subtitled ‘Jamaican Rumba’, of music by Benjamin and Grainger is a delight. Martin Jones and Richard McMahon go about their task with an undemonstrative enjoyment which takes the cringe factor out of Arthur Benjamin’s upbeat responses to the Caribbean, a factor that tends to materialise in the hands of over-enthusiastic amateurs.

A similar restraint makes for a successful attempt on the folkish jollity of Percy Grainger’s A Lincolnshire Posy. Matched by an intelligent recording, their performances make compulsive listening, even if Grainger’s Fantasy on Porgy and Bess comes over as a touch relentless. The main problem with the Cann sisters’ second volume in the series is poor piano sound: the bass sounds muddy and the upper registers hard and unresonant. This is a pity since the pair communicate real enjoyment as well as an attractive feeling for style.Their response to the captivating archaisms of Debussy’s Petite Suite is near ideal.

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There is also virtuosity aplenty, in their own arrangement of dances from The Nutcracker, MacDowell’s Hexentanz and Liszt’s second Hungarian Rhapsody, although it does not preclude a firm grip on the argument in Brahms’s Variations on the St Anthony Chorale. In short, this is a missed opportunity which better piano sound would have turned into a real treasure. Jan Smaczny