If you’ve ever wondered why you’d never heard of Vaughan Williams’ keyboard music, you might find the answer in these well-performed examples by the excellent British pianist Mark Bebbington.
It’s important to hear the full range of any great composer’s music, and Discoveries, recently reviewed in Limelight, brought us some of his unheard orchestral works. It’s wonderful music, hidden away for decades. But that is orchestral music, of which the composer was a master.The piano, being a percussion instrument simply cannot release the Vaughan Williams magic. It works a treat for Beethoven, but is relatively alien to the misty loveliness of Vaughan Williams.
Two works for solo piano, A Little Piano Book and Suite of Six Short Pieces, are pleasant, but not much more. Of sterner stuff is the Introduction and Fugue for two pianos, a first recording; at 17 minutes it has some substance. The Lake in the Mountains is claimed to be a masterpiece, and is possibly the best piece on the disc. However, it descends into musical head-banging with a great deal of thumping, not a style I associate with the composer. The arrangements of his more famous pieces, such as the Tallis Fantasia and Greensleeves, and of Bach’s Choral Prelude BVW649 and Gibbons’ Hymn Tune Prelude on Song 13, are interesting makeweights.
The recording is good and the accompanying notes are excellent, making a strong case for the music.