WORKS: Piano Sonata; Excursions; Souvenirs; Nocturne; Ballade
PERFORMER: Eric Parkin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9177 DDD
Barber’s popular Adagio for Strings has found its way into many a recorded compilation, and the lovely Knoxville: Summer of 1915 for soprano and orchestra has fairly regular airings. Here we have his complete output for solo piano: the Sonata, Nocturne, Ballade, and the suites Excursions and Souvenirs. The style is easily assimilable – basically Romantic, unashamedly lyrical and flowing, by turns rhetorical and intimate. The nod at Schoenberg in the slow movement of the Sonata, where Barber uses a 12-tone row as a left hand ostinato, is a gesture which in no way lessens the work’s approachability; and he is just as apt to use traditional songs – like ‘The Streets of Laredo’ in the third Excursion. In places Parkin is decidedly cavalier about Barber’s carefully marked dynamics, and the Galop at the end of Souvenirs is never more than a modest canter. Yet he sails happily through the formidable cross-groupings (7 notes against 8, 5 against 6) and builds up the Sonata’s final fugue tellingly.
It’s hard to pin down just why this disc is ultimately disappointing. The technique and fingerwork are reliable and the sound is good. Yet it leaves the impression of never quite plumbing the depths or scaling the heights. Wadham Sutton