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Wonderful performances … the playing here is top notch

MusicWeb International, Rob Challinor

This is the third in a series of discs exploring the 2 piano and piano duet repertoire of Camille Saint-Saëns. The first two discs covered original works and arrangements of his own music.

For volume three there is a change of duo to the equally excellent partnership of Hiro Takenouchi and Simon Callaghan, both of whom are inveterate explorers into the byways of the repertoire.

The two works here are by no means the byways; both are core repertoire and multiple versions of both fill my collection as I’m sure they do for many collectors. What is unusual is to hear them in two piano versions;

I have heard broadcast performances of these arrangements but have not previously come across recordings so it good to have them together in wonderful performances and excellent sound.

The familiar Funeral march from Chopin’s second Sonata has appeared in many guises; a glance at imslp.org shows versions for many varied ensembles ranging from theatre orchestra to mixed chorus and piano; there is even a dramatic recitation for speaker and piano – very 19th Century. I imagine there are orchestral versions of both of these Sonatas (I notice that Leo Weiner arranged the Liszt) but these arrangements seem to be the only ones for two pianos. As is clear from earlier albums Saint-Saëns was fond of the two piano format and it is perhaps not surprising that he should choose to make these arrangements of works that he loved…

Liszt never managed to transcribe his Sonata in B minor for two pianists though he too clearly appreciated the additional scope that the two piano genre offered and arranged many of his works for the medium… Had he tackled the Sonata I imagine the result may have sounded much like this. Again there are textural additions that put chords and melodies higher up the keyboard. In the Grandioso section this certainly helps with the tune which for a single player has to compete against thickly textured repeated chords; here the tune rings out easily in bright octaves. In the following cantando espressivo there is a glorious moment where the melody is gently played, almost bell like, against falling quavers which in the original have to be divided between the single pianist’s hands. …

Any caveats about the success of the results should not reflect on the pianism of Messrs Callaghan and Takenouchi;

the playing here is top notch

While they are both olympian in tackling the huge virtuoso demands their ensemble is unassailable in writing that at times must push co-ordination to its limits. The sound is marvellous and I will return to the Liszt just to hear the delicate beauty of much of the playing in the andante sosteuto; the pianissimo scales in the F-sharp major section are a real hold-your-breath-moment.

A quick glance at Saint-Saëns’ worklist shows that there still remain some works for both 4 hands and two pianos including a set of Variations on the chorus from Judas Maccabaeus, a Duo and a transcription of Henri Duparc’s symphonic poem Lenore, so hopefully a fourth volume will follow.

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Sensitivity and panache

Fanfare Magazine, Jim Svejda

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.

Back To Top 23/10/2021