Grainger: Piano Works, Vol. 2

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LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Piano Works, Vol. 2
PERFORMER: Penelope Thwaites (piano)
Penelope Thwaites is a leading authority on Grainger and this is the second of five discs she is making of his solo piano music. (She has already appeared on other volumes of Chandos’s complete Grainger edition.) The 27 tracks are of music originating – though not necessarily finding its present form – between 1893 and 1912, when Grainger’s reputation as a composer flourished in England. Most of the pieces are based either on folksongs or popular tunes and the early tracks create a mood of luxurious musing at the keyboard. Things liven up, however, and the best-known pieces come towards the end, including Molly on the Shore, Shepherd’s Hey, Country Gardens and Handel in the Strand. Grainger combined the elements of folksong-collecting and pastoral nostalgia with sophisticated piano bravura, experimental adventure and a sense of mischief. He had the common touch. In The Gum-Suckers’ March, Thwaites understandably feels the pressure, but she’s a feisty player and natural with it. Died for Love, with a little curling phrase repeated a thousand ways, sounds as easy as lapping water. It’s a pity the characteristically distant Chandos recording makes the piano sound a bit small. Adrian Jack