Notes and Editorial Reviews
In the time before classical music got so darned “serious”, composers and performers knew very well that one of the most important purposes of music was entertainment. Certainly Bach and Mozart and Haydn understood this—and perhaps it was a more common understanding when there was more improvisation and less meticulously guided instruction exhibited in performance. Whatever happened, today we too often regard so-called “classical” musicians who indulge too much in entertaining and not enough in probing the depths of a complex score as somehow less than full members of the true classical music artistic community.
Well, you can throw all of that nonsense out when you listen to this very entertaining and artistically unassailable
and stylistically informed program by British keyboardist-extraordinaire David Rees-Williams. I didn’t know his work before—which began with a serious New College Oxford/Royal College of Music grounding in classical piano and organ and progressed to work with his own acclaimed jazz trio—but whatever the route, Rees-Williams has found a calling that truly celebrates and respects the root material he exploits for his improvisations, variations, and re-imaginings, and elevates his skilled and imaginative playing to something much closer to art than anything resembling fluff or amateur noodling.
No, this is stuff that you will readily repeat—his engaging takes on God Save the Queen (which he titles “Country Song”), Greensleeves, Land of Hope and Glory, Scarborough Fayre, and Tallis’ Canon will leave you wanting more. And his occasional combining of Hammond organ with his piano settings really works—(as a former, reluctant Hammond practitioner myself—a church in southern Ontario—I have a certain abstruse fondness for the instrument)—thanks largely to his commanding technique and stylistic versatility, whether exploring the melodic variants of Hubert Parry’s famous tune Jerusalem or expanding the already expansive borders of Elgar’s beloved Nimrod via Pop goes the Weasel.
Rees -Williams’ cool, refined interpretive manner is sometimes interrupted by some much noisier renditions (British Grenadiers; Lincolnshire Poacher), which kind of upset the established, very agreeable mood, but you can’t help but enjoy these wilder excursions, especially when you realize the underlying playfulness and humor that informs them. This was a happy discovery, a disc that will remain handy, to ensure an occasion’s lightened mood or to remind a random listener that music sometimes just calls us to loosen our ties and “have a good time”.
-- David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
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