Wallace: Celtic Fantasies

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: William Vincent Wallace
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Wallace: Celtic Fantasies
WORKS: The Harp That Once Through Tara’s Halls; The Blue Bells of Scotland; Scots Wha Hae; Ye Banks and Braes; The Gloomy Night is Gathering Fast; Go Where the Glory Waits Thee – Love’s Young Dream
PERFORMER: Rosemary Tick, Richard Bonynge (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8572775

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William Vincent Wallace was born in 1812 in County Mayo but got his big break in Australia, consolidating his reputation in tours of South America and the Caribbean before settling in the US. He was proud of his roots, and published more than 50 piano pieces based on Irish and Scottish folk tunes.

I steeled myself to listen to this CD after hearing some of this repertoire played by other hands in more sentimental performances redolent of Victorian parlour recitals – or 20th century ideas of how these might have sounded. I should have had more faith, since Rosemary Tuck and Richard Bonynge have previously made an excellent fist of tackling Wallace’s music. This is the second volume of their celebration of his piano music on Naxos: the first focused on transcriptions of excerpts from his operas. This time Bonynge only performs on one track, Ye Banks and Braes, which is an arrangement of Burns’s lyric.

Many of these pieces were designed to be playable by talented amateurs, and the eschewal of showy virtuoso writing becomes a virtue in itself. Even relatively simple music needs to be played with skill, clarity of vision and honest feeling. Tuck shows these in abundance, producing another lively, engaging recital.

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Barry Witherden