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LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Three Ballades; Five Irish Folk Tunes; Preludes Has 1, 2, 4, 5 & 9; Three Piano Pieces; Impromptu
PERFORMER: Miceal O’Rourke (piano)
Michele Esposito, in common with others of his countrymen, including Geminiani, was a talented Italian musician who chose to settle in Dublin. He arrived in 1882 as professor of piano at the Royal Irish Academy, and was later appointed its director. After establishing the Dublin Orchestral Society, he became a major force in Irish classical music. With operas, a prizewinning ‘Irish’ Symphony and much else besides to his credit, he was also a composer of considerable accomplishment. This fascinating collection of his piano music shows a musical intelligence alive to developments in Romantic music as well as one capable of real individuality. Chopin, Schumann and Brahms are occasionally called to mind, though at times there is an almost Russian colour to the musical accent. His Irish folksong settings are charming, at times, curiously enough, reminiscent of Janacek’s piano music, and the five Preludes recorded here are quite magnificent. Miceal O’Rourke is a superb advocate of this virtually unknown repertoire. His playing, sincere in simpler pieces and commandingly virtuosic when necessary, is unfailingly sympathetic. This disc will delight anyone with a taste for late-Romantic piano music. Jan Smaczny