Another highly successful and rewarding endeavour for Callaghan and Takenouchi

Another highly successful and rewarding endeavour for Callaghan and Takenouchi

International Record Review, Mark Tanner

I had the pleasure of reviewing the first instalment of Simon Callaghan’s and Hiroaki Takenouchi’s Delius transcriptions for two pianos in June 2012 and commented upon a ‘sparkling and sincere treatment’ of ‘La Calinda’ (from Koanga,  arranged by Joan Trimble) . The disc really captured the colours and timbres of Delius’s multifaceted style, so it was with great anticipation that I peeled off the cellophane from Volume 2.

As with the first disc, the recording was made in 2011 in the Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham Conservatoire, and as before, was impressed by the quality of the sound captured by Somm.

Callaghan and Takenouchi are a very well marshalled duo, coupling dexterity and enthusiasm with a natural sense of ease and a perceptive response to the music. Though two pianos can, in the right hands, tease out an enormous spectrum of effects with which to fulfil orchestrally conceived music, there are a great many hazards and complexities to overcome first, such as matching tonal and dynamic shades alongside pedal effects, not to mention the nitty-gritty business of gauging shifts in tempo and marrying up the attack so that the texture remains transparent. All of this is very well handled by these players, so that the music is permitted to spring forward in a lively, engaging manner. I particularly enjoyed their account of the somewhat louche Paris: A Nocturne (arranged by Julius Bluths), which took as its inspiration Delius’s first encounter with the French capital in 1888, a time when the air must have been thick with riotous hedonism and intellectual inspiration. This sprawling work, a kind of bizarre tone poem, emerges over some 22 minutes from an enigmatic – scary even – subterranean preamble into more emphatic, evocative and perfumed territory. The shadowy avenues eventually, or at least temporarily, lead into lighter, ebullient areas of music; in truth one never quite knows what is coming next. The performance is well coordinated and evolves into something really rather exciting in the middle.

Summer Night on the River is the sequel to On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring, which was also dedicated to Balfour Gardiner. Arranged by Philip Heseltine (a.k.a. Peter Warlock), it achieves a beautifully lilting atmosphere in this performance.

Debussyan sonorities are somewhere in the mix and, although there is an elusive melody to clutch onto from time to time, one finds oneself floating along in the moment, pleasantly unsure of what one is experiencing.

In his nicely concise notes, Martin Lee-Browne explains that Delius was a lifelong admirer of Norway, and in this marvellously spacious, panoramic work, Eventyr, arranged by Benjamin Dale, the music’s storytelling dimension comes across very enjoyably. For me, this piece shines out as the most consistently enticing work on the disc, with sinister undertones and rugged scenes colliding with less impetuous moments and oddly pleasing brighter splashes of colour. Delius seems to have had people queuing up to create arrangements of his orchestral pieces, and Percy Grainger was also responsible for A Dance Rhapsody No. 1, which the duo ably captured in Volume I. Song of the High Hills is another Norway-motivated work of considerable length and diversity. The mountainous terrain is verv well evoked in the writing, and the shimmering detail is superbly drawn out in this performance. The rhythmically stirring Fantastic Dance, written in 1931 , arranged by Ethel Bartlett and Rae Robertson, is by comparison a somewhat brief, quirky work, though nonetheless vivid and always interesting.

Though narrowly missing the boat for the 150th anniversary of Delius’s birth (Volume I was timed to perfection), this recording chalks up another highly successful and rewarding endeavour for Callaghan and Takenouchi. Delius fans will have something to talk about.