SOMM Recordings explores one of the most significant partnerships in 20th-century British music with Façades, a disc of piano-accompanied songs and music for four-hand piano by William Walton and Constant Lambert. The two shared a friendship of nearly 30 years until Lambert’s death in 1951, aged 45.
Façades takes its title from Walton’s era-defining “entertainment”, heard here in arrangements for four-hand piano of its two orchestral Suites by Lambert – regarded by Walton as the definitive reciter of Edith Sitwell’s nonsense verses.
Lambert’s Trois pièces nègres pour les touches blanches for piano duet are a kaleidoscopic, jazz-accented tour de force exploration of the piano’s white keys. Described by the composer as an “idyll”, Walton’s Siesta (also for two-player piano) is, says Ronald Woodley in his entertaining and informative booklet notes, “infused with the clear light and open charm of Italy”.
The eight-song settings by Lambert of poems by the eighth-century Chinese poet Li Po are “exquisitely crafted, restrained and often enigmatic miniatures [marked by an] elusive and allusive musical style”.
Completing the recital, a selection of songs by Walton range from Tudor pastiche (Under the Greenwood Tree) to the atonal-inflected Tritons and lyrically captivating Beatriz’s Song.
Making their SOMM debuts are tenor James Geer and his accompanist in the songs, pianist Ronald Woodley. The latter is joined at the keyboard in the four-hand piano arrangements by Andrew West whose previous SOMM recordings include three acclaimed volumes of Parry’s English Lyrics (SOMMCD 257, 270 and 272).
SOMM has also released two volumes of Constant Lambert conducting: a compendium of his last recordings including Walton’s Façade Suites (SOMMCD 023) and ballet music by Tchaikovsky, Meyerbeer and Rossini (SOMMCD 080). SOMM’s Walton discography includes Sir Adrian Boult conducting the First Symphony and Belshazzar’s Feast (SOMMCD 094).
On This Recording
- Constant Lambert:
- I. Aubade
- II. Siesta
- III. Nocturne
- The Winds ac
- Daphne ac
- Tritons ac
- I. A Summer Day
- II. Nocturne
- III. With a Man of Leisure
- IV. Lines
- Siesta for Piano Duet bc
- Under the Greenwood Tree ac
- Beatriz’s Song (arr. Christopher Palmer) ac
- I. The Ruin of the Ku-Su Palace
- II. The Intruder
- III. On the City Street
- The Long-Departed Lover ac
- Swiss Jodelling Song
- Tango Pasodoblé
- Tarantella Sevillana
- Scotch Rhapsody
- Country Dance
- Noche Espagnola
- Popular Song
Trois pièces nègres pour les touches blanches for piano duet bc
Four Poems by Li Po ac
Three Poems by Li Po ac
Walton (arr. Constant Lambert)
Façade Suite No. 1 for piano duet bc
Façade Suite No. 2 for piano duet bc
a James Geer, tenor
b Andrew West, piano
c Ronald Woodley, piano
“The naughty cover of this CD, showing scantily-clad flappers dancing the tango, sets you up for a feast of 1920s jazz-flavoured wit. … The parade of Foxtrots, Scotch Rhapsodies, Polkas and Tangos saunters by in lithe, light-fingered performances from Andrew West and Ronald Woodley, with the crisp clearness of a black-and-white etching. … In all it’s a wonderful collection of beautifully crafted miniatures, which reflect every colour of a dazzling musical decade.” —Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph
“The title alludes to the two suites from William Walton’s Façade in Constant Lambert’s virtuosic piano-duet transcription that end the sequence, but the other items afford interesting context. Music by Lambert, including his all-white-note Trois pièces nègres for piano duet and seven Li Po settings, lead to Lambert’s Façade treatment glorying in the bitonal iridescence with which familiar but quite dissimilar tunes are deftly combined.” —Paul Driver, The Sunday Times (May 10 On Record)
“Andrew West and Ronald Woodley clearly relish the opportunity to appreciate the humour of these wry pieces, and play with commitment and zest. …This is a fascinating combination of unusual Walton and intriguing Lambert pieces. Adventurous British music lovers should love this.” —Ian Lace, MusicWeb International
“it was Lambert moreover who, as an accomplished pianist himself, made the piano duet arrangements which appear on this recording, crisply and sympathetically rendered by Andrew West and Ronald Woodley. Beautifully conceived for four hands in terms of texture and idiomatic fluency, these transcriptions have much in common with the resourceful ‘white-note’ studies of Lambert’s Trois Pièces nègres pour les touches blanches composed in 1949, miniatures designed only to be played on the white keys of the piano. These are also performed with an empathy and stylistic awareness (especially the final ‘cake-walk’ movement). … The post-Satie world of Lambert’s Li Po songs, written between 1927 and 1930, is compellingly chaste and charmingly enigmatic in James Geer’s hands. The selection of Walton’s songs… are also delightful examples of Walton’s affinity for Tudor pastiche.” —Jeremy Dibble, Gramophone
“This is another top-notch release from SOMM with excellence in every department- a typically imaginative programme, immaculately performed and produced back up with a fascinating liner note and full texts. Even the riotous cover illustration – “The Tango” by Georges Barbier is an apt delight. … This is an absolute gem of a disc in every regard. Without a doubt, Walton was the finer composer of the two with a catalogue of enduring masterpieces. However, the particular delight of this excellent collection is to remind the listener that at his considerable best Constant Lambert was a composer of real stature and one whose star still deserves to shine today.” —Nick Barnard, MusicWeb International (Recommended Recording!)
“What makes this program enjoyable and winning is the way the musical examples set each other off and so too the performances convince nicely. … In the process we get almost lighthearted expressions with very modern tangy spans that bristle with intelligence and wit. Tenor James Geer along with pianists Andrew West and Ronald Woodley make of it all a joyous thing. There is a wry quality to much of it, yet heartfully serious it is nonetheless. … Check this one out, do! Highly recommended.” —Grego Applegate Edwards, Classical-Modern Music Review