Band 1: Variations on a Theme of Paganini - Witold Lutoslawski
This very brilliant and exciting work was written in 1941, and is based on the famous, and much used theme of Paganini’s caprice for unaccompanied violin. It has also been the inspiration for works by Liszt, Brahms, Rachmaninov and Boris Blacher. These variations by Lutoslawski provide bravura writing, using to the full the extent of each keyboard. There are eleven variations, the last of which brings us to an exciting climax. On a personal note, the scores, which the pianists here use, were autographed and sent personally from Warsaw by the composer.
Band 2: Devotion (Widmung) – Schumann, transcribed by Liszt, arranged for two pianos by June Clark
Written on the occasion of his marriage to Clara Wieck, this lush piano piece is full of Schumann’s overflowing emotion for his beloved Clara. Originally a song, the solo piano version is a transcription by Liszt.
Band 3: Largo: Allegro – from Sonata no. 5 in C Major – Bach arranged for two pianos by Victor Babin
One of a set of six sonatas, written in about 1727, this is perhaps better known as an Organ Trio Sonata, though it was originally written for an instrument with two keyboards and pedals, the clavicembalo. Since today this instrument does not now exist, these works are only ever heard on the organ, but this version is a reconstruction in the hope that it will approximate the original edition. Certainly the result of these two movements upon modern concert grands is both pleasing and effective.
Band 4: Waltz in A flat op.39 no.5 - Brahms
Brahms wrote sixteen of these charming waltzes, originally for four hands at one piano, but himself rewrote five of them for two pianos. This is number fifteen in the duet version, and is perhaps the most well know and best loved of all.
Band 1: Romance: Tarantella – from Suite no. 2 op.17 in C minor – Rachmaninov
In 1901, after suffering the effects of a nervous breakdown, Rachmaninov recovered from this setback, with the help of a certain Dr.Dahl and hypnosis, to compose in the same year the famous second Piano Concerto in C minor, and this Suite for Two Pianos. Both works are remarkably similar, both in key and romanticism, and are technically very demanding. Of the third and fourth movements included on this record the Romance is full of the typical lyricism so characteristic of the composer’s style, with an exhilarating concerto-like climax. The Tarantella keeps the atmosphere of the frenzied Italian dance going throughout, not letting up the pace or tension for a single moment.
Band 2: Mattie Rag (no.1 of Jamaican Street Songs): Jamaican Rumba – Arthur Benjamin
These two well-known pieces by the Australian composer need very little introduction. Both are miniatures on a very delicate scale, the whimsical beauty of ‘Mattie Rag’ complementing the subdued rhythms and precision of the ‘Jamaican Rumba’, which is directed to be played entirely with the soft pedal.
Band 3: Chant Polonais op.74 – Chopin-Liszt arranged by Edwin Benbow
‘The Maiden’s Wish’ is the title of the Polish song from which the solo piano piece derives. This Liszt transcription, here arranged for two pianos by Edwin Benbow, sparkles its way through, with glistening piano sounds and effects, and a pleasing flavour of the dance.
Band 4: Sheep may safely graze – Bach, arranged by Mary Howe
This well-known piece comes from the soprano recitative and aria taken from the Birthday Cantata ‘Was mir behagt, ist nur der Munter Jagd.’ (My only delight is the merry chase). Serene and pastoral in character, it abounds in beautiful melodies and ‘sheep bell’ accompaniment effects.