ALBUM TITLE: Collection: The Maiden’s Prayer
WORKS: Works by DvorŠák, Handel, Beethoven, Sinding, Poldini, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Raff, Sibelius, Grieg,
PERFORMER: Philip Martin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67379
A threadbare little set of variations by an amateur, Tekla Badarzewska, gives this collection its title. It was incredibly popular throughout the later 19th century and early 20th, but is the sort of thing, today, you would only play for a laugh after a few drinks. With Ethelbert Nevin’s Narcissus, it’s about the worst thing on the disc, which is otherwise a compilation of salon pieces rather in the line of Stephen Hough’s ‘Piano Albums’ (Virgin and Hyperion), though with less of the bravura element. Paderewski’s Minuet, Rubinstein’s Melody and Moszkowski’s Serenata all appeared on Hough’s first two albums.
Philip Martin, for years a decent, reliable ‘BBC pianist’ (there’s no such animal nowadays, apart from the glamorous New Generation Artists), lacks Hough’s sharp focus and his gift for holding your attention by teasing a little; he’s too straight, and just a bit dull. I can listen to one of Hough’s albums all the way through without getting bored, but Philip Martin all too quickly suggests a backdrop to idle chatter. If much of the music hardly calls for virtuosity, it does need special pleading, and when a beautifully written and pianistic piece like Sinding’s Rustle of Spring offers every opportunity for gracefulness and colour, Martin hardly rises to the occasion. Adrian Jack