COMPOSERS: Britten,Holst,Ireland,Leighton and Roderick Williams,Stevenson
ALBUM TITLE: Echoes of Land & Sea
WORKS: Piano music by Britten, Holst, Stevenson, Ireland, Leighton and Roderick Williams
PERFORMER: Maria Marchant (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SOMMCD 0174
This attractively devised and immaculately performed recital showcases both the charms of the byways of the English musical scene, and the quiet frustrations that so often come with it. Britten’s Holiday Diary is a very early work, and operates within the low musical horizons of small-scale character-pieces from which Britten himself to some extent recoiled; such as the music of his teacher, John Ireland – whose Ballads of London Nights is also included here.
Ronald Stevenson’s Peter Grimes Fantasy connects with a very different tradition, the virtuoso-paraphrase pianistic world of Liszt and Busoni; but despite some impressive moments, the end result feels strangely depersonalised. Even Holst’s ultra-individual creative voice doesn’t quite emerge through his small output of piano pieces, engaging as they are. None of this slightly unsatisfying feeling lies at Maria Marchant’s door: on the contrary, her playing has a combined energy, verve, and technical precision that does all it can to search out the character of each item on her programme. This includes Goodwood by the Sea, a chirpy number specially written for her by Roderick Williams. But the most memorable experience here, by far, comes in Williams’s ‘free transcription’ of Ireland’s immortal song Sea Fever – arranged with wonderful keyboard imagination (this from one of our leading baritones!), and delivered by Marchant with a richness of musicianship that haunts the memory.