Piano Music by Billy Mayerl Vol. I
The Harp of the winds
Philip Martin, piano
It was on a Sunday afternoon, during a jazz programme on Radio Three, that Siva Oke at SOMM first heard pianist Philip Martin playing Ragtime. His playing captured exactly the idiom: precise and articulate yet graceful and buoyant, it also possessed infinite rhythmic élan and style. In a word, it was captivating! A first meeting produced several exciting thoughts and it transpired that Billy Mayerl's piano music was an idea that both Philip and SOMM were eager to explore.
This first volume consists of some of Mayerl's most popular piano pieces and it will be followed by others in the same series. Most people know Billy Mayerl through his most famous composition, "Marigold" (1927), a favourite among many a pianist of the older generation, both amateur and professional, but what is not generally known is that he wrote over 300 piano pieces as well as works for piano and orchestra, and he was no doubt an acknowledged master of light music.
Mayerl (1902-1959) was a talented pianist. Born in central London in 1902 he entered the Trinity College of Music at the age of 7 and at the age of 9 he gave his first major concert playing Grieg's Piano Concerto. His passion for American ragtime music is already clearly evident in his first solo piano piece in 1917, which was published in 1925 under the title "The Jazz Master". By then, Mayerl had become arguably the most famous of the early 'syncopaters' . His big break came when he joined the Savoy Havana Band at London's Savoy Hotel and in addition to making records with the band for English Columbia and later His Master's Voice, he soon recorded a number of solo discs. The Band also became famous for their regular broadcasts via the early 2LO studio in nearby Savoy Hill and within five years, with regular broadcasts and gramophone recordings, Billy Mayerl had achieved national fame.
But he was also a composer, and the 23-year old had additionally made almost 40 piano rolls, of his own and other composers’ music and had met with and become a friend of George Gershwin. The latter entrusted Mayerl with giving the British premiere of his Rhapsody in Blue, in London at the Queen's Hall, conducted by Debroy Somers in October 1925, in the composer's presence.
The speed and elegance of Mayerl's playing, captured on many 78rpm discs, coupled with undeniably attractive and original music composed by a genuine master pianist, have ensured Mayerl's enduring appeal, both as pianist and composer. His own brand of syncopated playing was both immaculate and brilliant but it is in his 'characteristic' pieces that his immensely gifted individual compositional style can be appreciated at its best: amongst the finest examples are Willow Moss from the Aquarium Suite (1937). Railroad Rhythm, was inspired by The Coronation Scot, an express passenger train of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. Robots was surely suggested by the enormous impact Fritz Lang's 1927 German silent film Metropolis had made earlier that year.
Mayerl was a noted amateur horticulturist and loved relaxing in his large garden in Beaconsfield. It's no coincidence that amongst his stand-alone pieces, one finds many bearing the titles of flora -- Marigold, Autumn Crocus, Wistaria and Evening Primrose, are included on this disc.
By the early 1950s, with the rise of rock-and-roll, Mayerl's sophisticated music began to lose its appeal to younger generations and it became somewhat neglected. We hope that this new series will help to remind us of his music's undoubted originality and true worth.
"Irresistible!" The ArtsDesk.com see HERE
Philip Martin - biography
Born in Dublin, the distinguished Irish pianist and composer Philip Martin combines a busy solo performing career with that of a composer and teacher. It is these three elements of his musical personality that make him such a force in musical life today. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music and his Wigmore Hall debut led to frequent appearances throughout Britain with all the BBC Orchestras, the London Symphony, London Sinfonietta, the Royal Philharmonic, the Hallé, the City of Birmingham, Bournemouth Symphony and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. He has also been a frequent visitor to the BBC Prom Concerts
Philip's BBC, RTE and foreign broadcasts are many and he has toured with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain playing in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and Tivoli Gardens in Denmark. He followed this two years later with a televised performance of Rachmaninov's Paganini Rhapsody which was televised on 'Omnibus at the Proms'.He has toured worldwide and has held residencies in various American Universities as well as being a guest of Tanglewood and Aspen Music Festivals. He also holds a BA degree in Art History and was recently awarded a Professorship by the City University of Birmingham for his outstanding contribution to the arts. He has an extensive discography of recordings for Hyperion, Chandos, Nimbus, BBC and other labels.
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