Here is Atoll boss Wayne Laird’s promised ongoing survey of Whanganui-born Horsley (1920-2012). The composer spent most of his time in England with recitals and many piano concerto performances under Sir John Barbirolli and Sir Thomas Beecham before going into semi-retirement on the Isle of Man, where Laird interviewed him last year. These are not the complete 24 preludes. (Good modern versions of the lot on a single CD are readily available elsewhere.) In the 1950s, when Horsley recorded them, Rachmaninoff preludes were not well enough known.
Horsley sidesteps the done-to-death C sharp minor one and selects seven each from the Op 23 and 32 sets, then picks eight Rachmaninoff transcriptions, corn to our ears but fashionable encores in the 50s, such as Mussorgsky’s Gopak and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee.
The preludes are not for bash artists. Their reflective lyricism, which shows Rachmaninoff at his classiest, is ideally suited to Horsley’s refined Francophile touch, which targets our senses rather than the emotions. Unrushed speeds and very clear fingerwork underpin Horsley’s immensely tasteful playing, all presented with Laird’s very freshly remastered sound. Recommended.
GRANADOS: DANZAS ESPAÑOLAS, Guillaume Coppola (piano) (Eloquente/Ode).
Outstanding. Coppola, like many Frenchmen, has Spanish music pulsating in his veins. His perceptive sleeve notes show that. He knows the origin of each dance, its dance-tune-dance ternary structure and its provincial roots, mainly Andalusia. His clear pianism articulates the difference of each dance form discerningly. He plays with Hispanic passion. Recorded tone is clear. Spanish music has very wide appeal. Buy.
ASIAN MUSIC FOR STRING QUARTET, New Zealand String Quartet (Naxos/Triton).
The three Chinese writers come through strongly. The most exotic Chinese sonority is Zhou Long’s Song of the Ch’in. The NZSQ evoke to perfection its fine gradients of staccato and sliding pitches of the ancient zither-type ch’in. Tan Dun’s Eight Colours has equally flamboyant sonorities but of a more integrated Western flavour. Most subtle of them all is Gao Ping’s Bright Light and Sound Shadows. Its variations on one narrow two-note interval expand in most unpredictable ways.
I have heard better than A Way a Lone from the great Toru Takemitsu. The quartet medium seems too restrictive for this Japanese Debussy. Perhaps the tremendous passion in Spiral III by Cambodia’s Chinary Ung pays tribute to much of his family who perished in the Khmer Rouge genocide. Both he and Tan won Grawemeyer Awards, often referred to as the Nobel Prize in music composition.