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Rambles & Reflections - Piano Transcriptions by Percy Grainger / Piers Lane

Grainger / Lane
Release Date: 11/08/2011 
Label:  Helios   Catalog #: 55454  
Composer:  William ByrdJohn DowlandGeorge Frideric HandelCyril Scott,   ... 
Performer:  Piers Lane
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Lane’s excellent, acutely perceptive recording emerges quite as recommendable as in its first incarnation.

This Helios reissue was first released on Hyperion CDA67279 nearly a decade ago. It remains a fine disc, and enshrines some of Grainger’s major, and a few minor, transcriptions. They’re all played with an engaging sense of vitality and, where appropriate, chiselled rhythmic sense. Piers Lane never dawdles, and invariably invigorates.

The disc opens with a litmus test of Grainger performance, the Air and variations by Byrd, better known as The Carman’s Whistle and played with warm lyricism and beautifully balanced appreciation of the dictates of the tune. It’s often taken slower, indeed
Read more Martin Jones in his Nimbus boxed set of Grainger’s solo piano works takes it considerably slower. Both approaches work, but arguably a tighter tempo grip is the more appropriate. The programme is by no means slavishly chronological – the chronology referring to the composers whose works are transcribed, not that of the date Grainger reclothed them – but it is very broadly so. Therefore Byrd is followed by Dowland and Handel, in proper chronology, but then by Cyril Scott and Stanford which isn’t. This matters not at all. The Scott, in fact, offers a rare chance to hear a transcription that is overlooked, the Handelian Rhapsody. It’s quite an expressive piece, full of brio and chordal panache; of Handel there is little sign, nor of Scott too, really, for that matter.

Grainger’s transcription of Stanford’s Four Irish Dances is, by contrast, very well known. Lane takes sensible tempi and characterises finely. Jones is a touch faster but no more communicative. The ‘Ramble on Love’ is from Rosenkavalier, one of his most famous such transcriptions. Where Jones luxuriates in its aching beauty, Lane presses a bit onwards, reining in the languor and bittersweet harmonies. In his 78 in 1929 Grainger drove through it in just over six minutes, though possibly it was to fit two sides of the disc. Of the two Fauré settings, I’ve always much preferred Nell to Après un rêve because the former sounds so much more idiomatic. The Paraphrase on Tchaikovsky's Flower Waltz is powerfully engaging in Lane’s hands. When the composer set down his version in 1918 – two takes have survived – he had to hustle through it, brilliantly though he did it. Rightly the disc ends with the treble burnish of Stephen Foster via Grainger’s tribute to him – music of affection and once more considerable warmth.

Lane’s excellent, acutely perceptive recording emerges quite as recommendable as in its first incarnation.

-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International


Review of the original release.

Like most pianist/composers of his generation, Percy Grainger was bitten by the transcription bug, and he tailored a wide variety of compositions from William Byrd to George Gershwin to suit his idiosyncratic keyboard virtuosity. Piers Lane rises to this repertoire's not-inconsiderable challenges in a judiciously programmed and brilliantly executed recital for Hyperion. It's true that Byrd's Carman's Whistle Variations, Dowland's Now, o now, I needs must part, Brahms' Lullaby, Tchaikovsky's Waltz of the Flowers, and the Hornpipe from Handel's Water Music can sound unnaturally upholstered due to Grainger's fondness for full, orchestrally-inspired sonorities (lots of hand-crunching chordwork and unwieldy octave doublings that sound easier than they are to play); but Piers Lane's suave fingerwork and splendid ear for textural differentiation save the day. Notice too how effortlessly Lane keeps the melody and accompanimental filigree in perspective throughout Fauré's Aprés un rêve and Nell. Lane also does a marvelous job with Grainger's unabashedly lush and affectionate treatment of Cyril Scott's Handelian Rhapsody, recorded here for the first time.

Although no one lets go at the climaxes in Ramble on Love (based on the Presentation of the Rose from Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier) with the abandon that Grainger himself displays in his two recordings of the piece, Lane's sensitive, polished rendition matches Marc-André Hamelin's earlier Hyperion recording. Lane slightly surpasses Hamelin in Maguire's Kick (the first of Stanford's Four Irish Dances) by virtue of his more forceful articulation of the ornaments and melodic turns. Lane saves one of Grainger's most bizarre and remarkable arrangements for last. "Lullaby" embeds Stephen Foster's "Camptown Races" in a haze of repeated notes representing what Grainger calls a "musical glasses" effect in the style and spirit of a marimbaphone. Grainger notates these gestures with surgical precision regarding dynamics and tempo, and the cumulative result proves nearly as hypnotic as the minimalist aesthetic they foreshadow. In sum, a Grainger anthology that easily stands with superb recorded efforts on behalf of the composer by the aforementioned Hamelin, Janine Sowden (ASV), and Martin Jones (Nimbus). [11/30/2002]
--Jed Distler, Read less

Works on This Recording

The Carman's Whistle, MB 36 by William Byrd
Performer:  Piers Lane (Piano)
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
Firste Booke of Songes or Ayres: no 6, Now, o now, I needs must part by John Dowland
Performer:  Piers Lane (Piano)
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 1597; England 
Water Music, HWV 348-350: Hornpipe by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Piers Lane (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1715/1736; London, England 
Handelian Rhapsody by Cyril Scott
Performer:  Piers Lane (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Air and Dance by Frederick Delius
Performer:  Piers Lane (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1915; France 
Beautiful Fresh Flower by Traditional
Performer:  Piers Lane (Piano)
Der Rosenkavalier, Op. 59: Mir ist..."Rose Presentation" by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Piers Lane (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1909-1910; Germany 
Songs (5), Op. 49: no 4, Wiegenlied by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Piers Lane (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1868; Austria 
Après un rêve, Op. 7 no 1 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Piers Lane (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877; France 
Nell, Op. 18 no 1 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Piers Lane (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; France 
Paraphrase on Tchaikovsky's Waltz of the Flowers by Percy Aldridge Grainger
Performer:  Piers Lane (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Lady, be Good: The man I love by George Gershwin
Performer:  Piers Lane (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1924; USA 
Goldwyn Follies: Love walked in by George Gershwin
Performer:  Piers Lane (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1937; USA 
Tribute to Foster: Lullaby by Percy Aldridge Grainger
Performer:  Piers Lane (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1913/1931 
Irish Dances (4), Op. 89 by Charles Villiers Stanford
Performer:  Piers Lane (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1903; England 

Featured Sound Samples

Water Music, HWV 348-350 (Handel): Hornpipe
Der Rosenkavalier (Strauss): Mir ist... "Rose Presentation"

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