24 + 1

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Abramian,Alkan & Previn,Auerbach,Blumenfeld,Bortkiewicz,Bowen,Busoni,Cui,Cumming,Dubois,Faure,Gál,Genzmer,Glière,Goltz,Ireland,Kabalevsky,Kapustin,L Berkeley,Messiaen,Stanford,Svetlanov,Szymanowski,Vierne
LABELS: Willowhayne Records
ALBUM TITLE: 24 + 1
WORKS: Preludes by Genzmer, Vierne, Fauré, Cumming, Svetlanov, Blumenfeld, Kapustin, Auerbach, Messiaen, Gál, Glière, Ireland, Dubois, Abramian, Stanford, Bowen, Goltz, Busoni, L Berkeley, Bortkiewicz, Szymanowski, Kabalevsky, Cui, Alkan & Previn
PERFORMER: Dominic John (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: WHR041

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The liner note informs us that Dominic John has been ‘rummaging’ through two centuries of piano music, ‘combing online music services, seeing where the next click would lead’. His aim is to ‘shine a light beyond the conventional repertoire, taking interest in the prelude as a genre of piano music regardless of the fame of its composers’. The result, we are told, is ‘a new set of 24 preludes… navigating the usual cycle of keys but contrasting styles and decades at every turn’.

Well, up to a point. We’re certainly not talking about a cohesive and glittering new ‘24’ – with a cheekily percussive 25th added by André Previn as a ‘bonus’ – nor are we talking about fascinating new discoveries. Indeed, it’s significant that more than a few of them – including those by Harald Genzmer, Yevgeny Svetlanov, Boris Golitz, and Dmitri Kabalevsky – could almost pass muster as works by Prokofiev. And it was to be expected that some would depend to an irritating degree on a fixation on one single stylistic tic (Gabriel Fauré, Hans Gal). Fey Irishness (John Ireland) and twee Englishness (Charles Villiers Stanford) are compensated for by some powerful echoes of Rachmaninov (Reinhold Glière, Eduard Abramyan); York Bowen’s fire and thunder feels like an academic exercise, but Sergei Bortkiewicz’s Russian-style heroism at least feels real.

Dominic John plays persuasively, but there are only four pieces which deserve to get into the encore repertoire: Karol Szymanowski’s ruminative Prelude in A minor, Charles-Valentin Alkan’s brilliantly Schumannesque Prelude in A flat major, Lera Auerbach’s Kurtagian Prelude in E flat minor, and Olivier Messiaen’s ‘La colombe’, which is one minute 55 seconds of perfumed grace.

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Michael Church