Piers Lane Goes to Town Again
Piers Lane (piano)
rec. 2015/22, Potton Hall, Dulwich, UK
Hyperion CDA68163 
As implied by the title, Australian pianist Piers Lane trips down some pleasant byways of the piano repertoire “again” in this sequel to his 2013 Hyperion compilation album, Piers Lane Goes to Town. On this generously filled disc, he tackles dances, surveying more than three centuries of terpsichorean music. There is something here for everyone.
Lane begins with a performance of the Jean-Baptiste Loeillet Suite in E Minor. As Lane describes in his program notes, this is a spurious suite cobbled together by the American editor Louis Oesterle for an early 20th-century G. Schirmer anthology of “early keyboard music.” Oesterle attributed the music to Jean-Baptiste Lully; although the composers’ names sound similar, it is a curious mistake as the music sounds nothing like Lully. Pianophiles will be familiar with the Loeillet/Lully via Russian-American pianist Shura Cherkassky, who programmed the suite a number of times in the 1980s and early 1990s. Lane is much more circumspect than the older pianist, offering a suave, understated reading that incorporates some distinctive voicing, particularly in the gigue. A selection of Schubert dances curated by Myra Hess is lovingly played by Lane. He performs these gems with crystalline tone and a subtly playful sense of rubato. Benjamin Godard’s Mazurka no. 2 (op. 54) is a pleasant memento of this mostly forgotten French composer who produced reams of excellent salon music much-cherished by amateur pianists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Lane treats the piece with respect but does not refrain from some delectable bits of timing that perfectly suit the music.
Of the modern works on the album, the most enjoyable are the pieces by Robert Constable and Mark Saya. Constable’s A slinky foxtrot ‘Nocturne’ sounds more like a slow rag than a foxtrot, but the “after-hours” nature of the work makes it effective as a foil to the following Liszt Tarantella. Saya’s Habaneras: ‘an operatic paraphrase’ is an ingenious mash-up of the Bizet “Habanera” from Carmen with several of Debussy’s Spanish-themed works. Lane’s command of color comes to the fore here, to wonderful effect. Interestingly, Lane plays with more gusto in the modern music selections than he does in the romantic repertoire. His Albeniz Seguidillas sounds cautious, particularly when compared to the exuberant recordings of Alfred Cortot or George Copeland. The Liszt Tarantella has many edges rounded off via rubato and slimmed-down dynamics; his reading denies Liszt’s virtuosic temperament, and the result is not always convincing.
The disc ends with an intriguing transcription of Bach’s Sarabande from the Cello Suite no. 6 by Julian Jacobson, whose process is to present a portion of the Bach in a fairly strict transcription, then to repeat it in looser technicolor fashion. (The English pianist Herbert Fryer followed this pattern in his early 20th century arrangements of Purcell, which were often played by Percy Grainger.) Lane’s concentration and digital control are impressive.
This is a wonderful follow-up to Lane’s previous Goes to Town album. Younger pianists should take note; a judiciously curated disc of encore-style music such as this offers a joyful listening experience that will likely prove more lasting than yet another Beethoven cycle or Liszt sonata.
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Jean Baptiste Loeillet (1680-1730)
Keyboard Suite in E minor
Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937)
Mazurkas Op 50
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
German Dances & Waltzes – A Selection By Myra Hess
T K Murray (b1965)
Robert Constable (b1947)
A slinky foxtrot ‘Nocturne’
Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
Tarantella (No 3 of Venezia e Napoli – Supplement aux Années de Pèlerinage seconde volume, S162)
Mark Saya (b1954)
Habaneras ‘An operatic paraphrase’
Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909)
Seguidillas (No 5 of Cantos de España, Op 232)
Alan Charlton (1970-2018)
Franz Schubert (1797-1828), arr. Leopold Godowsky (1870-1938)
Ballet music (Transcription from Rosamunde, Fürstin von Zypern, D797)
Benjamin Godard (1849-1895)
Mazurka No 2 in B flat major Op 54
Anatol Liadov (1855-1914)
Humorous song ‘I danced with a mosquito’ (No 4 of 8 Russian folk songs, Op 58)
Billy Mayerl (1902-1959)
George Botsford (1874-1949), arr. Una Winifred Atwell (1910/14-1983)
Black and white rag
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Das Butterbrot ‘La tartine de beurre’ K Anh.284n
Byron Adams (b1955)
… la tristesse amoureuse de la nuit (No 2 of Illuminations)
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), arr. Julian Jacobson (b1947)
Sarabande (Movement 4 of Cello Suite No 6 in D major, BWV1012)