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Sensitivity and panache

Fanfare Magazine, Jim Svejda

Unknown (but worthy) music thrillingly played.

While he might seem like another of those English composers whose name suggests a character in a Noël Coward play, Percy Sherwood (1848–1918) was in fact born in Dresden, the son of an English teacher and a German singer. Educated at the Dresden Conservatory — where he began to teach in the 1890s — Sherwood was a German composer in all but name, his music written under the unmistakable influence of Schumann and Brahms. Following a London concert of his music in 1906, the critic of the Pall Mall Gazette — the fashionable evening newspaper that gave Bernard Shaw his first job — summed up the composer in a line that still holds true today: “Mr Sherwood will have nothing of your ultra-modern methods of expression; he prefers to deal simply with his subjects, and to treat them rather in the fashion of 18th century chamber music, than in any other way we know of”.

If Sherwood’s music is neither daring nor particularly original, then it’s much too attractive to have lain completely fallow for quite this long. Heard in its first recording, the Suite in C Major for Two Pianos — which “presumably dates from 1901 or early 1902, shortly before its first known performance” — is indeed structured like an 18th-century keyboard suite … this is entertaining, frequently charming music by a man who knew his business.

More substantial — at nearly 40 minutes — is the Sonata in C Minor for Two Pianos, which was introduced in Dresden in April of 1896 … at no point during its 37 minutes are you tempted to consult your watch or impatiently move on to the next track, which needless to say is a striking achievement for a composer few people have ever heard of.

Charles Hubert H. Parry was only 27 — and a quarter century from his knighthood — when he wrote his Grosses Duo in “late 1875 or early 1876”. While not terribly better-known than its Sherwood companion pieces, Parry’s Duo is in an entirely different category … the piece is unmistakably that of an important composer flexing his youthful muscles…

The Parnassius Piano Duo (Simon Callaghan and Hiroaki Takenouchi) play all the music with roughly equal amounts of sensitivity and panache, together with the intensity of recently converted zealots.

It’s difficult to imagine a more courageous or rewarding album of music for this combination being released any time soon.

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Excellent performances from the Parnassius Piano Duo

MusicWeb International, Jonathan Woolf

Splendidly played by Simon Callaghan and Hiroaki Takenouchi

MusicWeb International, John Quinn

Parnassius Piano Duo - Simon Callaghan And Hiroaki Takenouchi
An exciting performance, notable for the range of colour which the two brought to the piece

Planet Hugill,  Robert Hugill 

Utterly Convincing Account

MusicWeb International, Nick Barnard

“…fine performances of often elusive music… Callaghan and Takenouchi really do give an utterly convincing account… a magnificent recital”

Another highly successful and rewarding endeavour for Callaghan and Takenouchi

International Record Review, Mark Tanner

I had the pleasure of reviewing the first instalment of Simon Callaghan’s and Hiroaki Takenouchi’s Delius transcriptions for two pianos in June 2012 and commented upon a ‘sparkling and sincere treatment’ of ‘La Calinda’ (from Koanga,  arranged by Joan Trimble) . The disc really captured the colours and timbres of Delius’s multifaceted style, so it was with great anticipation that I peeled off the cellophane from Volume 2.

As with the first disc, the recording was made in 2011 in the Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham Conservatoire, and as before, was impressed by the quality of the sound captured by Somm.

Love, Panache and Exact Synchronisation – 4 Stars
BBC Music Magazine, Geoff Brown
Arnold Schoenberg famously proposed that good music was music that remained good even when transcribed for the zither. Zither arrangements of Delius are unlikely to happen, though his orchestral music – rhapsodic, ecstatic, often coloured in half-lights – has proved unusually susceptible to conversion for two pianos. In this first of Somm’s enterprising two-part survey, it helps that the acoustic and spatial spread are so vivid: the Steinway concert grands seem right in your living room, lending new clarity to textures and nuances sometimes mislaid in the  orchestral haze. It also helps that Simon Callaghan and Hiroaki Takenouchi, first teamed together at London’s Royal College of Music, play with such love, panache, and exact synchronisation.
The skill of these arrangements varies. Most utilitarian is Rudolf Schmidt-Wunstorf’s On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring which gives us the visible bones but no flesh, no spirit. Delius’s own contemporaries buckle to the task with greater understanding. Percy Grainger’s own piano panache enlivens his treatment of the Dance Rhapsody; Philip Heseltine’s Brigg Fair shimmers with magic at the start; and if the rarely encountered  Poem of Life and Love stays structurally indigestible Balfour Gardiner and Eric Fenby’s distillation still reveals many riches.

Roll on volume two!

Collective spirit for addressing the knotty musical priorities

International Record Review, Mark Tanner

Frederick Delius’s orchestral music abounds in colour and vividness of effect. During 2012 there will doubtless be numerous commemorative ventures marking the 150 years since the composer’s birth, but Delius’s music all too easily slips through the net. It permeates the senses in ways not quite emulated by his British contemporaries, although needless to say there are common threads and priorities to notice; the fact that Delius spent well over half of his life in France means that he picked up an enormous wealth of influences along the way. All the more so given that, at the age of 22, he moved to Florida to cultivate oranges before moving to Virginia, where he found his feet as a music teacher.

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08/08/2020