WORKS: Piano Sonata; Excursions; Souvenirs; Nocturne; Ballade; Interlude
PERFORMER: Leon McCawley (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: VC 5 45270 2
Samuel Barber’s reputation has perhaps suffered inordinately through the vast popular success of the Adagio for Strings; it’s now high time that the rest of his output enjoyed public acclaim as well, as his is a highly personal language – characteristically American, much of its time in its use of bitonality and the expression of widely varied emotions.
Barber makes deeply expressive use of the piano’s enormous potential and McCawley matches this at every step. From the humorous, ironic and evocative sound-pictures of the early Excursions and Souvenirs to the rugged modernity of the Sonata, first performed by Horowitz, there is a wide range of nuance, the moods captured with great refinement, poetry and wit. McCawley proves himself as a virtuoso as well, but without any pretensions — his formidable abilities always serve the music. Tone colour is rich and never harsh, lyricism is uppermost and a sense of the artist’s affection for the music shines through it all. McCawley came to public attention by not winning the Leeds Piano Competition a few years ago; this is his debut disc and proves that he is a young man to watch out for. I look forward to hearing whatever he may do next. Jessica Duchen