ALAN RICHARDSON (1904-1978): Piano Music - Sonatina Rachmaninoff: Vocalise (transcr. Richardson), Elegy Op. 22 No. 2, Vivaldi: Largo from Concerto for two violins (transcr. Richardson), 4 Romantic Studies, Op. 25, Sonata Op. 26, Sonatina in F, Op. 27, 2 Short Impromptus Op. 28, 2 pieces, Op. 29, 2 Nocturnes, Op. 30, Character Sketches Op. 31, 2 Country Pictures, Op. 34, Three Pieces Op. 35, Rhapsody, Op. 37, Sonata No. 2 in D Op. 39, Kaleidoscope - 10 tone-sketches (Nos, 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9 & 10), Op. 52, 3 Pieces, Allegro ma non troppo in E Flat, Moment Musical in G-sharp minor, The Dreaming Spires. Rondel, Pastoral Sketch, Meadowlands, Pavane, Bagatelle, Sketches on a theme of Haydn, Minuet by Boccherini, Sonata after Paganini (Sonata in E minor for Violin and Guitar), Con poco moto in E, Rondo, The Wayfarer, Con moto : ritmico e grazioso, Jack in the Green, Untitled. A setting of The Wayfarer tune, Educational and Grade Pieces: Clorinda, 5 Short Pieces, 3 Grade Pieces, Suite in D Op. 38, 2 Grade 6 Pieces, 3 Educational Pieces, 3 Grade Pieces, 3 Pieces, 3 Late Educational Pieces, Works for Duet: Suite from Handel’s Water Music, Improvisation on a Nursery Tune, Works for 2 Pianos: Waltz, Passepied, Débutante, Presto, Grandmother’s Waltz, Caprice on a theme of Liszt, On Heather Hill, Sonata.

Catalogue Number: 05U055

Label: Lyrita

Reference: SRCD.2373

Format: CD

Price: $34.98

Description: There is a great deal to enjoy here, from the prolific pen of a true composer-pianist, who was highly regarded by his peers, audiences, the press and students throughout his career (such was his reputation that Lutosławski contributed a piece to his memorial concert). Since then, however, Richardson seems to have descended into an odd kind of obscurity; there doesn’t appear to be a great deal of detailed documentation about his life and specific works and even the excellent notes for this set strangely omit any information at all about a number of pieces, and admits defeat over the details of piano duo recordings that Richardson supposedly made. It would be good, for instance, to know whether there is any significance to the fact that the terse, four-note motif obsessively explored in the first movement of the First Sonata follows the exact contour of D-S-C-H, though not at pitch. The Second Sonata is a work of considerable drama and stature, with the composer’s lyrical gifts well to the fore; if arguably a little more diffuse than the highly concentrated 1st it is no less pianistically effective and the slow movement is a study in eloquent pathos. Richardson's reputation as a skilled and thoroughly accessible tunesmith was well deserved - he invariably wrote in a tonal idiom, fresh and original and with complete mastery of his instrument, and everything here is nothing less than thoroughly enjoyable - but most of his titles offer little clue as to the nature of the music. He had a more serious side as well - not only in the sonatas, but in works like Two Nocturnes, which are decidedly harmonically wayward, or the pianistically challenging Three Pieces, dedicated to Cherkassky, or the 10 'tone-sketches' of Kaleidoscope - the composer displays his inventiveness, emotional depth and range. Most of the works here are short, comparable to the lighter end of the output of composers like Frank Bridge or John Foulds, whether pastoral and 'English' with suggestions of folksong, or neo-Baroque or - Classical. The transcription of Rachmaninov's Vocalise is emblematic of Richardson's approach to the piano. Less extravagantly extrovert and virtuosic than Earl Wild's (the benchmark for transcriptions of this work, and frankly most others), the term 'English reserve' might come to mind initially, but in fact this is the beginning of a masterly dramatic arc which culminates in a powerful statement that lacks nothing in virtuosity, and the harmonic thinking in the accompanimental figuration is exceedingly sophisticated. Even the disc of pieces for educational purposes is full of delights. Every young person reluctantly taking piano lessons should be so lucky as to have material of this quality to work on, with every piece crafted with the same care and attention to musical content as the works intended for a concert audience. His output for two pianos is similarly impressive; a body of delightful miniatures, ingeniously conceived for the ensemble - and another surprise, his most expansive instrumental work, the half-hour Sonata. The effortless ease with which the composer expresses himself on this scale is truly remarkable. A large sonata-form movement with an introduction and epilogue is followed by a relaxed, lyrical slow movement and a bracing, folk-inflected finale with a striding open-air quality. 5 CDs. Martin Jones (piano), Adrian Jones (second piano).

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