Pairing a twentieth century British composer with a nineteenth century Russian one for a programme of piano music seems rather odd, but sometimes projects such as these do work beautifully well. This CD is a case in point. John Ireland (1879-1962) was an English composer who studied with the famous Sir Charles V Stanford, and later became a music teacher himself. Indeed, one of his most eminent pupils was none other than Benjamin Britten. His output is profuse, and he wrote in many genres, but his legacy remains more on the lighter side rather than those huge orchestral and operatic works. Indeed, he became known as an 'English impressionist' and his musical style drew on many sources.
Listen — Ireland: The Island Spell
(track 4, 0:01-0:54) © 2019 Tom Hicks and Chatelet Records :
Ireland was very fond of the Channel Islands, and the two works on this disc were both composed at two of these places. The Island Spell was written in Jersey in 1912 and Sarnia, one of Ireland's most significant compositions, was written in Guernsey in 1940. Sarnia is the Roman name for the island Ireland had to evacuate shortly before Guernsey was occupied by German forces.
Listen — Ireland: Le Catioroc (Sarnia)
(track 1, 0:01-0:56) © 2019 Tom Hicks and Chatelet Records :
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) needs no introduction. One of Russia's greatest composers, and maybe the most popular universally, he remains famous for his grand ballets, symphonies, concertos and stage-works, but despite these emotionally charged pieces, he was also capable of writing light, simple music for a solo instrument. The Seasons was composed to a commission from Nikolay Bernard, editor of The Nouvellist Magazine. Bernard promised his readers a new piece for each month of 1876, and Tchaikovsky duly obliged with twelve miniature masterpieces in his own distinctive style. Indeed, the lyrical movements sound like arias while the dance movements are balletic in nature.
Listen — Tchaikovsky: February (The Seasons)
(track 6, 0:01-1:00) © 2019 Tom Hicks and Chatelet Records :
With climate change on everybody's lips, this issue is a gorgeous tribute to the overwhelming beauty of nature in its many diverse forms, and both composers rise to the occasion to give us some of the most captivating musical tone paintings one can hope for. Tom Hicks (altogether new to me) performs these mini gems with grace and elan, and his loving attention to detail brings out all the hidden nuances of these ethereal pieces full of colour and imagery. Great stuff to relax with.
Copyright © 6 February 2020