Grainger: Piano Music for Four Hands, Vol 3

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Grainger
LABELS: Pearl
WORKS: Piano Music for Four Hands, Vol 3
PERFORMER: Penelope Thwaites & John Lavender (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SHE CD 9631 DDD
This is the third and final volume of Grainger’s piano music for four hands, and it comprises mostly arrangements and transcriptions. It would be hard to imagine more sympathetic performances than these, with clearer articulation or neater fingerwork. The phrasing, the expression, the sheer unanimity are highly impressive, with melodic lines skilfully accentuated and accompanying figuration clear and audible but properly subservient. Thwaites and Lavender seem to breathe together, every touch of rubato, every change of tempo, mood and dynamic, controlled as if by a single mind.

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The programme is pleasingly varied, Addinsell’s Festival nicely offsetting Grainger’s arrangement of ‘Early One Morning’, its first verse unexpectedly in a minor key and supported by Brittenesque folksong harmonies. Grainger was a keen admirer of Gershwin, and the most substantial item on this disc is his rather fragmentary Fantasy on themes from Porgy and Bess, with a jaunty ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’, a wistful ‘Summertime’ and a passionate ‘Bess, You Is My Woman Now’.

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Even these artists, for all their finesse, cannot make much of a case for Delius’s Dance Rhapsody shorn of its orchestral finery. But that’s a very minor quibble. All three discs in this series are a must and cannot be recommended too strongly. Wadham Sutton