DELIUS AND HIS CIRCLE • Paul Guinery (pn) • STONE RECORDS 5060192780130 (72:40)
DELIUS Three Preludes. Hassan: Intermezzo. Valse. Rêverie. Dance for Harpsichord. QUILTER Dance in the Twilight. Shepherd Song. Rosamund. Pipe and Tabor. C. SCOTT Lotus Land.Read more class="COMPOSER12"> AUSTIN The Enchanted Palace. BAX The Maiden With the Daffodil. GRAINGER The Merry King. MOERAN Irish Love Song. Summer Valley. Bank Holiday. O’NEILL Carillon. WARLOCK Five Folk-song Preludes. GARDINER Mere
The overriding impression of this lovely disc is of a quiet Impressionism. Every once in a while an energetic, witty, or even exuberant piece interrupts that mood, almost with a wink or smile. The last work on the CD, Mere by Henry Balfour Gardiner, is such a work. Gardiner was a close friend of Delius, and while we rarely encounter his music today he was clearly very gifted. Mere is neither the English word (“What? You’re offering me a mere five dollars?”) nor the French word for mother. Rather it refers to a village that Gardiner would often visit on his bicycle, and it was clearly a cheery place, at least in his memory. Roger Quilter’s Dance in the Twilight is lilting, the rest of his pieces are truly charming and lovely. Pipe and Tabor sounds like a folk-dance arrangement.
Delius is the main composer here, and we don’t often hear his solo piano music. It is extremely effective, and while it has traces of Debussy and Grieg, the truth is that Delius in the end sounds only like Delius. We use other composers as reference points for those who have never heard his music and would like to know what to expect. Gentle pastels, subtle colors, and melodies weaving in and out of the texture rather than soaring above it. The Dance for Harpsichord was, in fact, written by Delius for the harpsichord, but is played here on the piano (and, hearing the music, I suspect it is better suited to the piano).
Much of the other music on the disc will be new to many collectors. There is nothing here that is not worth hearing, and there is enough variety of mood and color to keep one’s interest throughout. For me the Quilter, Cyril Scott, and E. J. Moeran pieces were the most important discoveries, but there was not one piece that I wasn’t grateful to make the acquaintance of. That is particularly true in the sensitive, delicately shaded and varied performances found here. I cannot judge from a disc like this whether Guinery would give an astoundingly great performance of a Beethoven or Schubert sonata. But he is clearly in his element here, and these are not sight-readings learned just for the recording studio.
As always with Stone Records, the quality of the production is very high—both in the natural and clean sound of the piano and the superlative notes in the accompanying booklet.