Grainger: Piano music

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COMPOSERS: Grainger
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Piano music
PERFORMER: Marc-André Hamelin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66884
Grainger’s declared loathing for the piano did not prevent him from becoming a master pianist, nor from composing music which, in all its variety, sounds thoroughly pianistic. He recorded a fair amount of Grieg, including the Concerto, and his predilection for the Norwegian composer’s Lyric Pieces is understandable, bearing in mind his own miniaturist leanings.

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This well-filled disc encompasses both the familiar (Country Gardens, Handel in the Strand) and the less so (In Dahomey, Spoon River), and Hamelin’s pleasure in this repertoire – challenging to the pianist, delightful for the listener – is manifest in every bar.

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Grainger’s teasing streak is evident from the quirky instructions in his scores (‘easy-goingly’, ‘louden hugely’, ‘harped all the way’). Hamelin obeys them all, producing performances of complete inevitability, happy in the Jutish Medley’s punchy start, the Colonial Song’s passion, the full-bodied lushness of Harvest Hymn, the perkiness of Molly on the Shore. Presumably he has no more fingers than the rest of us, but he puts them to remarkable use, juggling with themes and counter-melodies, all perfectly balanced for the most telling effect. Wadham Sutton