Few recent piano recordings have given me as much pleasure as this one. Imagine that sense of relaxation, fun or reflection that one feels listening to an encore after a lengthy and often more serious piano recital. Then multiply it by 20, and you have Piers Lane Goes to Town.
Of course it both is and it isn’t as simple as that. As the Queensland-born, London-based Lane writes in his engagingly-written booklet note, “Considering the scope of these short pieces (a selection of Lane’s most-often-played 20th- century encores), Australian composers feature more prominently than one might expect, partly because several works were written for me by down-under compatriots”.
So this is a musical autobiography in more ways than one. Alan Lane may not have written his Toccata for Piers, but the fact he was the latter’s father counts for much, as does the fact that the music of Billy Mayerl “was a great favourite in the Lane household”. Anthony Doheny’s Toccata for Piers Lane was by contrast, and as the name suggests, expressly written for Lane, as was Robert Keane’s delightful yet slightly dangerous-sounding The Tiger Tango.
Lane also suggests that he would be surprised “if even the most avid pianophile knew every piece on this disc”. However some pieces are beyond doubt. Myra Hess’s arrangement of JS Bach’s Jesu, joy of man’s desiring, for example. Or Arthur Benjamin’s Jamaican Rumba. Or Percy Grainger’s Irish tune from County Derry, with which the program ends. There are some crazy moments too – as you’d expect on a disc of encores. Dudley Moore’s hilarious Beethoven Parody: ‘And the Same to You’ makes an appearance, as does Alec Templeton’s Bach Goes to Town: Prelude and Fugue in Swing. Beautiful if eccentric is Mark Saya’s Barcarolles: Operatic Paraphrase after Offenbach and Chopin, while Antony Hopkins’ Variations on a Well-known theme is a compressed music history lesson, starting with Mozart and going through to Prokofiev (the unstated theme is Happy Birthday!).
That these works seem to belong so naturally beneath the fingers of Lane is hardly surprising: he’s not only played them umpteen times; he loves them. Listen to the affection he lavishes on Rachmaninov’s Daisies or Poulenc’s Nocturne No 4 in C Minor ‘Bal fantöme’, for example. Pieces such as Zez Confrey’s Dizzy Fingers, by contrast, bring out the showman in Lane, who is never above showing off if it’s all in the name of fun. A gorgeous release that will prove highly addictive.