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Recent recordings and reissues

Regis RRC 1227 Erik Satie: The Velvet Gentleman contains the following repertoire:

Gymnopédies 1-3 ; Gnossiennes 1-5 ; Sports et Divertissements ; Ragtime Parade ; Passacaille ; Sonatine bureaucratique ; Nocturnes 1, 3, 5 ; Je te veux - Valse ; Le Piège de Méduse ; Valse-Ballett ; Rêverie du Pauvre ; Pièces froides ; Chapitres tournés en tous sens ; Avant dernières pensées ; Cinq Grimaces

Several piano solo recordings by John McCabe have recently been reissued on CD. The Regis release of music by Satie, entitled The Velvet Gentleman, brings back to the catalogue some recordings first issued on LP in the 1970s, since when they have been highly praised. The Penguin Guide gave previous releases three stars on two occasions - on the first, the reviewer described the disc as an "entertaining and attractive anthology [which] gets better and better as it proceeds. John McCabe has the full measure of Satie's understated melancholy and cool, lyrical nostalgia. ...response of the pianism places this amongst the finest of Satie collections."

In the second review, it was felt that "McCabe is an intelligent & sympathetic exponent... catching its gently disconsolate atmosphere... helped by intimate recording... Sonatine played affectionately...in the quirky Sports, atmosphere takes precedence."

In a comparative review of different Satie recordings on LP, the Swedish critic Stefan Navermyr wrote: "The practical experience of his own creativity was, I believe, a benefit when [McCabe] turned his attention to Satie. In other words he took careful approach to the preparation... The results of this care are the finest Satie records available today" (the 1970s). He goes on: "when McCabe indulges Satie he gives form to the perpetually recurrent and meaningful elements: solid, clear, linear, lightness and transparency. ...the Gymnopédies ...are so filled with such elegance and grace that they feel surreal, meaningless, moulded, overwhelming versions which have become so numerous in recent years... the sarabands...are unique in beauty and strength."

Hyperion CDH55152 Herbert Howells: Lambert's Clavichord and Howells' Clavichord

Lambert's Clavichord : Twelve pieces, Op 41 (1927) Howells' Clavichord : Twenty pieces for clavichord or piano: Book I (1941) ; Book II (1961)

The highly successful Hyperion CD of music by Herbert Howells has been reissued on their Helios label. When John McCabe met Herbert Howells at receptions hosted by Novello & Company, their mutual publisher, he asked Howells if the composer would object if he played them on the piano, having loved these scintillating and individual pieces ever since his schooldays - to which Howells replied, "Of course not, dear boy, by all means play them on the piano". Many years later, McCabe jumped at the chance of recording these brilliant miniatures, which often express a great deal more than their modest proportions would imply.

Reviewers greeted the initial release with enthusiasm:

CD Review: "Some of Howells's most affecting and personal miniature invention, constantly illuminated by moments of exquisite chromaticism. Performances, recording and booklet notes are exemplary"

Gramophone: "A lovely collection. Can I have it on my desert island, please?"

Hi Fi News: "These exquisite miniatures are performed to idiomatic perfection... and Hyperion's sound is unobtrusively natural to match. Here is perfect late-evening fare."

BBC Music: "Devoted performances from McCabe, glowingly recorded"

BBC Music Magazine Best of the Year Choice

Dutton Digital CDSA 6881 John McCabe and Tamami Honma: Two Pianos

COPLAND Danzón Cubano ; BRITTEN Mazurka elegiaca ; ATHANASIADIS Terpsichore Bemused ; STRAVINSKY Agon (composer's own 2-piano version) ; McPHEE Balinese Ceremonial Music ; McCABE Basse danse

The recent CD recording of two-piano music by John McCabe and Tamami Honma has been received with wide praise. Bryce Morrison, in the August 2005 issue of Gramophone Magazine, wrote: "This challenging, enterprising programme, given with skill and affection, is inspired by 'a strong choreographic impulse', by dance seen in myriad varieties... The centrepiece is Stravinsky's Agon. Here, the two-piano arrangement accentutates the music's austerity, encouraging the 16th-century dances 'to take fire and explode in the 20th century', as Calum McDonald writes in his excellent essay. .. finally, McCabe's complex and ambitious Basse dance is a virtuoso piece emphasising 'differing tempi within a single metre'. ... As McCabe asks, why play so many arrangements when there are these original works by composers of the calibre of Copland and Britten? He and Tamami Honma...offer everything with a spirit of adventure and enquiry. Recorded early [in 2004], the disc is admirably balanced and presented."

In the December 2005 issue of Gramophone, the reviewers were asked to pick the discs they would give to friends, or would like to receive themselves - Guy Rickards picked, as the CD he would like to receive himself, the McCabe/Honma disc, describing it as a "variety of original pieces for two pianos, including... McCabe's own gripping Basse danse" and quoting Bryce Morrison's review (above) as encouragement.

 

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