HENSELT PIANO WORKS
Edition Peters Sounds 2016
RECITAL IN STOKESLEY METHODIST CHURCH
January 16, 2015
DANIEL Grimwood introduced his piano recital at Stokesley with Frescobaldi’s Toccata 1. A beautiful, wandering, tempo-changing work, it made a fascinating beginning to a piano recital which ranged far and wide in contrasting colour and tempi.
The Bach Italian Concerto (BWV 91) in baroque style with Vivaldi influences followed. The first movement has no tempo indication, and Grimwood performed it ‘cheerfully’, which suited it very nicely! The following ‘andante’ adopted a more stately if somewhat soporific pace. However, we were not tempted to slumber, as the third movement – ‘presto’ - again made us sit up as the music cascaded with a beautiful period feel.
Grimwood is a pianist of consummate elegance and refinement. He took time to explain his thinking about the music in the programme and this was certainly a very enriching experience, much appreciated by the audience.
The programme was a demanding one. In addition to the Frescobaldi Toccata and the "Italian Concerto", we were treated to Three Petrarch Sonnets by Liszt, a Venetian Gondola Song by Mendelssohn and 3 Barcarolles by Rubenstein, Faure and Chopin, all in the first part of the programme.
After the interval Grimwood, showing no signs of fatigue, did full justice to Schubert’s lovely Sonata in B flat major, D 960. Here again, the pianist explained some of the detail of the structure and expression of Schubert’s music, dealing with the existential issues of the point and nature of life and the imMutability of fate.
Composed in the last days of his brief life, Schubert’s great sonata was a beautiful experience enhanced by Grimwood’s attention to his audience, sharing his thoughts on the music and the composers. The whole concert was a tour de force.
Edition Peters Sounds EP001
A new label’s first release sets down important markers, and with these impressive accounts of the 13 Nocturnes of Gabriel Fauré, written between 1875 and 1921, Edition Peters establishes the highest standards. Grimwood relishes the liquid harmonic movement and rich textural elaborations of Fauré’s ruminative, often dark pieces with poise and refinement; even when things get busy, the sound colours are beautiful. More substantial liner notes would be helpful. SP
ADOLF VON HENSELT PIANO CONCERTO IN SCHWABACH, GERMANY
Stehende Ovationen und flammende Begeisterung beim furiosen Henselt-Festkonzert
...Den fulminanten Schlusspunkt dieses Festkonzerts aber setzte der junge, sympathische Spitzen-Pianist Daniel Grimwood, der ruhig, mit großer Souveränität, in das leidenschaftliche, temporeiche Klavierkonzert in f-Moll, op. 16 ein, das das Schwabacher Kammerorchester sicher und gekonnt anstimmte. Bestechend waren bei diesem Solo-Part die Läufe über die gesamte Klavier-Tastatur, wobei Daniel Grimwood in einem atemberaubenden Tempo über die Tasten flog ohne an Sensibilität der Spielkunst und ohne Minderung an Gefühl für die Expression einzubüßen. Absolute Spitzenklasse höchster Klavier-Kunst, die die Schwierigkeit Henselts in Rhythmik, Tonsprüngen und Schnelligkeit in Perfektion beherrschte. Staunend verfolgte das Publikum das Miteinander von Orchester und Solo-Pianist, das zuweilen nahtlos überging und in Teilen wie verschmolzen wirkte. Einfach Genial! Vor allem, wenn man daran dachte, dass hierfür nur zweimal miteinander geprobt wurde. Spätestens ab diesem Zeitpunkt wusste es der Markgrafensaal: „Henselt ist wieder zurück!“ Vielleicht hat ihn ja das Fieber der Menschen aus der Vergessenheit gerissen und ihm wenigstens musikalisch zu neuem Leben verholfen.
Malcom Hayes, BBC Music Magazine April 2011
Daniel Grimwood here contributes his own booklet note, whose blog-like manner could do with some editing, but which also contains some thought-provoking insights into the composer, the music, and the 1851 Erard piano on which it's recorded. Yes, the mechanics of this can sometimes be audibly contrary; the reduced volume-range is not what today's ears are used to; nor is the swimming-pool effect of the evidently looser type of damper-pedal mechanism. But as Grimwood says: 'The pianist is at liberty to play melodies with a full-throatedness which would sound vulgar on a modern instrument'.
This is the key to what makes his interpretations so impressive. Surging out of the switchback-like contrasts and (mostly) miniature forms of the 24 Preludes comes an unforced power and grandeur, articulated in a warmly rounded, rather baritonal sonority that does real justice to the immensity of Chopin's imagination. Grimwood conjures some remarkable sounds, like the iridescent chord sequences above the deep pedal-note in the A flat Prelude's coda. He also has a beautifully natural way of allowing contrasts to speak at full value without exaggerating them: the D flat 'Raindrop' Preulde is all the more memorable for this kind of anti-melodramatic straightforwardness. His way with much of the Berceuse at first seems matter-of-fact, until you realise that it is cannily setting up a delivery of the coda whose silvery poise haunts the memory. And the posthumous C sharp minor Nocturne - above all the exquisite shading of the closing right-hand scales - similarly reveals a true keyboard artist at work.
Peter Grahame Woolf, Musical Pointers website
For this recording, the Erard piano has been completely reconditioned and tuned to the Bach-Lehmann temperament, giving it greater depth in the bass, clarity in the treble, and evenness across the whole range.
Grimwood writes his own notes which puts the programme into a historical perspective during a period when "no instrument tolerated such accelerated development as the piano" and he discusses "the inseparable equation between instrumental sonority and musical conception" and Chopin's own writing for the instrument he knew.
Grimwood is a multi-instrumentalist (viola as well as all keyboards) and his diversity of experience preserves spontaneity, which comes across in this absorbing Chopin recital; not so smoothly perfect as some competitors in the field, but a disc which brings you far closer to the composer and his world of sound than do many others.
RACHMANINOFF AND BLUMENFELD SONATAS
Peter Grahame Woolf, Musical Pointers website
Daniel Grimwood's latest recital CD does full justice to Rachmaninov's first sonata, about which the composer had serious misgivings, and makes a strong case for his friend Felix Blumenfeld, which he came across whilst cataloguing a collection of scores of music by composers "some familiar, some forgotten, Blumenfeld the most inexplicably neglected".
Grimwood's account of the latter's Sonata-Fantasia Op 46, the peak of Blumenfeld's piano oeuvre, completely vindicates that judgment; "marked by dramatic, at times frenzied, quality which heralds Rachmaninov and Skryabin" [Richard Beattie Davis]. The recording is superb and the production has fine notes by Grimwood and Davis, put together stylishly by designer Adam Woolf...
BBC Music Magazine June 2010
Daniel Grimwood marshals the torrent of notes ... with impressive bravura; the limpid quasi-impressionistic writing of Près de l'eau and La Fontaine (are) delivered with great sensitivity."
LISZT COMPLETE ANNEES DE PELERINAGE
Peter Grahame Woolf, Musical Pointers website
These are stunning discs of music by one of my unfavourite composers. The effect of these works heard on a splendid Erard of 1851 will give everyone enjoyment and pause for thought. The piano "combines a silky mid-range with delicate, bell-like high notes and a bass of tremendous power". Listen to the Petrarch Sonnets as you've never heard them before.
This is an important double-disc which helps to support our conviction that the future for romantic, classical and pre-classical keyboard music lies with musicians who explore them on good period instruments, which should bring new insights even to those who prefer to stick by modern Steinways, as do many celebrity pianists and their audiences...
Malcolm Hayes, BBC Music Magazine. September 2009
Hearing these magnificent works performed on a period instrument amounts to a case of swings and roundabouts, but illuminatingly so. In the first two books, Liszt’s closely bunched bass-register chords need care on a modern piano to prevent them sounding too thick; here they balance themselves quite naturally. The instrument’s mellow resonance is a revealing resource (eg. conjuring wonderful echoing alphorns in Chapelle de Guillaume Tell). But the mid-treble register’s shortage of sustained singing tone is a surprise. And the later third book was surely written for something more powerful.
What this set is much more about is its exceptional performer. There isn’t a single dud among Daniel Grimwood’s interpretations. The best of them – Sposalizio, the Petrarch Sonnets, the two ‘Cypress Threnodies’ – match the finest I’ve heard anywhere. He has all the virtuoso velocity and firepower, and then some, that’s needed for the Dante Sonata. One musical mood after another is caught to near-perfection (the roguishness of Canzonetta del Salvator Rosa is a delight); and the middle section of Les cloches de Genève beautifully brings out Liszt’s improvisatory streak. Sometimes, as in Angelus!, there’s a reluctance to play softly enough – but that may be to do with the instrument? For some annoying reason the recording’s left-hand channel disappears during the first half of Sposalizio. Elsewhere the sound is glitch-free, excellent, and does justice to Grimwood’s remarkable achievement.
Jeremy Nicholas, Gramophone Magazine. July 2009
Listening to Liszt's musical descrption of his travels through Switzerland and Italy affords the same kind of pleasure as reading a prose journal. It's been many years since I "read it" all at a single sitting, and the first time in an edition with vivid hand-coloured mezzotints. Daniel Grimwood, fast making a name for himself as an original and discriminating musician, has chosen to play the cycle on an Érard piano of 1851, an instrument by Liszt's favourite maker built at around the same time as he was radically revising the 16 earlier works that woudl make up the first two volumes of Années de Pélerinage (the third was written between 1867 and 1877).
Tuned to the (unequal) Bach-Lehman temperament (a'=440), the Érard produces the sound Liszt would have heard when composeing the playing these works. "Straight stringing," explains Grimwood, "causes a separation of register which the modern piano lacks...the lighter action means that playing at speed is far easier. The wealth of overtones make for a more vibrant and sweeter tone." But this would be just another interesting period-instrument recording if it were not for the performances.
These are out of the top drawer, for Grimwood is not merely a keyboard colourist (Au bord d'une source, for instance, and the two Thrénodies from Book 3 emerge as early examples of Impressionism, enhanced by the Érard's harp-like treble register in quieter passages); he throws himself with abandon into the bravura writing of Vallée d'Obermann and the Dante Sonata, and turns in a delightfully perky Canzonetta del Salvator Rosa. It's an enthralling journey that throws new light on these poetic ideals of the Romantic era and, with hardly a pause between each item, leaves the listener, as it would any traveller on the Grand Tour, awed by the wonders of nature, the spectacular scenery and the glories of Italian culture.
Geoffrey Norris, The Telegraph 2009
Daniel Grimwood's [Wigmore Hall] piano recital was stimulating and revelatory in equal measure. He played the first two books of Liszt's musical travelogue Années de Pèlerinage, which in itself is something of an undertaking in terms of pianistic demands, and he did so on an instrument of Liszt's time, an Erard piano of 1851. Erard is said to have been Liszt's favourite make, and the date slots neatly into the middle of the period when the music was composed. But this was no mere exercise in earnest authenticity. Rather it conjured up a significantly different image of Liszt from the one we are used to. In his thoughtful programme note, Grimwood, like Alfred Brendel before him, broached several reasons why Liszt's music might be regarded with suspicion, or even disdain, these days, with its tastefulness sometimes called into question. One could also argue that the modern piano, with its capacity for high-tension brilliance and weight, might have been a contributory factor to the misapprehension of Liszt, since, in the wrong hands, it can give a licence to kill the music's poetry and colour. Grimwood is never guilty of that, and his playing on instruments of today attests to his sensitivity; but there is no doubt that the Erard harboured a spectrum of mellow timbres that suited the music ideally, whether in the dark rumination of Vallée d'Obermann from the Swiss book or the musing of Sonetto 123 del Petrarca from the Italian. The instrument was capable of considerable power and passion, as in the Swiss Orage and the Italian Dante Sonata, and Grimwood tapped its potential to the full. His virtuosity was watertight, but there was also an expressive depth to the playing that gave an added resonance to Liszt's musical landscapes and artistic reflections.
Geoffrey Norris, The Daily Telegraph CD of the week. January 2009
Shortly before Christmas, Daniel Grimwood gave a Wigmore Hall recital of the first two books of Liszt's Années de Pelerinage, fascinating from the point of view that he played on an 1851 Erard piano. As I said in the review, this was no mere blinkered striving for authenticity, but actually revealed Liszt's music in a quite different light. This two-disc set covers all three books of the Années de Pelerinage and produces much the same impact. The Erard instrument, which in terms of date slots neatly into the period when Liszt conceived these musical travelogues, is tuned to a form of unequal temperament as opposed to the equal temperament of today, so it sounds slightly - but not disagreeably - unfamiliar to our ears. The piano's mellow timbre is also a plus, since it has a cosseting effect on the music while at the same time yielding up a spectrum of colours that does not hinder the bravura but places it in a warmer context than can sometimes be the case on the modern grand. It's range can be experienced in a single piece, 'Vallée d'Obermann', from the first, Swiss book, where Grimwood draws on the Erard's qualities to explore the passages of dark rumination while showing that it is no less capable of the vigorous passion that also manifests itself in 'Après une lecure de Dante' from the second, Italian book. Grimwood find limpid, glistening delicacy for such pieces as 'Au Lac de Wallenstadt' from the first book and 'Les Jeux d'Eaux à la Villa d'Este' from the third. Much thought has gone into this project, backed by Grimwood's command of the demands of Liszt's music and the sensitive expression he brings to it.
Andrew Clement, The Guardian, January 2009
Daniel Grimwood plays the three books of pieces that make up the Années de Pèlerinage on a piano of the composer's era, an 1851 Erard. I have not come across period-instrument performances of Liszt's piano music before: it makes a fascinating comparison with the recently reviewed Andreas Staier's Schumann disc, also played on an Erard. The tonal differences are significant; there's more power and definition on the instrument that Grimwoood uses, especially in the bass, and he puts that to good use in these performances, which conjure a dramatic power when it is required, while the lightness of the 19th-century action, when compared with a modern concert grand, gives sparkle and buoyancy to faster passages.
Grimwood colours all these pieces marvellously, even the predominantly contemplative numbers that make up the third book, composed in the late 1870s, and he is equally assured in the larger-scale structures of the two pieces that dominate those earlier collections, Vallée d'Obermann in the first, and Après une Lecture du Dante that ends the second. The result is a set that both throws new light and colours on one of the peaks of the romantic piano repertory, offers significant musical insights in its own right, and stands up well against many of the very best modern-instrument recordings.
Edward Greenfield - Gramophone Magazine 2012
The Shostakovich sonata is given a riveting performance by Jamie Walton and Daniel Grimwood. Theirs is a true partnership, responding with like minds to the lyrical, quizzical and visceral aspects of the sonata’s trajectory.Whether in the beautifully shaped second theme of the opening movement, the aggressive motor rhythms of the scherzo, the intense introspection of the slow movement or the weird mix of simplicity and hyperactivity in the finale, this is a performance that seems to strike right at the heart of the music. Britten’s sonata of 1961 and Prokofiev’s of 1949 make strong contrasting companion pieces and both are played here with palpable stylistic understanding. Walton’s palette of sound on his 1712 Guarneri cello is applied with aptness and imagination, Grimwood matching and complementing him in expressive nuance, emotional poise and potent energy. Individual episodes in the Britten are sharply focused in character but integrated into a broad, organic structure. The solemnity and dark hues at the start of the Prokofiev yield to his distinctive melody and harmony, conveyed here mellifluously and with telling inflections and, in the finale, with a blend of delicacy and robust rhythmicality. This is highly cultured playing, rich in enjoyment.
Geoffrey Norris - Telegraph CD of the week (5*****) 2012
Cellist Jamie Walton and pianist Daniel Grimwood make an outstanding duo . .The natural warmth of Walton’s playing, matching that of Rostropovich himself, is finely enhanced by the crispness and fresh focus of Grimwood’s accompaniments. Clear, well-balanced recording helps to make this is a first-rate issue.”
Helen Wallace, BBC Music Magazine 2011
In Strauss’s sunlit early Sonata, Grimwood’s mastery of pace and form is arresting, and Walton is more than equal to its elegant bravado, despite what feels a rather boomy acoustic. In their wonderfully spooky first movement of Brahms’s E minor Sonata, the accent is on mystery rather than urgency, particularly in the repeat of the opening where Grimwood achieves a miraculous penumbral hush, his falling phrases glistening like drops in a twilit mist – an absolute high point of the performance.
Edward Greenfield – Gramophone Magazine 2010
Two players find a perfect balance in three large-scale Romantic sonatas
Most collectors approaching this CD will be drawn by the works of Brahms and Strauss but the bonus, a sonata by Austrian composer Ludwig Thuille, is a genuine find, powerfully dramatic and lyrical by turns. The touchingly elegiac yet romantic Adagio is truly beautiful, followed by a dancing, light-hearted finale. Thuille was a friend of Strauss, yet today he is all but forgotten. Perhaps this warmly sensitive performance will restore his reputation.
“This highly rewarding recital opens with Brahms, which the composer described as a piano/cello sonata, the two instruments being equal partners, and they certainly are here. The way in which Jamie Walton and Daniel Grimwood share the partnership is striking, with the cello and piano satisfyingly interwoven through three perfectly balanced movements. The first, romantically passionate but with an underlying minor-key, melancholic flavour, is followed by one of the composer’s most winning allegrettos (here described as a quasi menuetto) with a flowing, landler-like centerpiece. The vigorously bold fugal finale delayed the completion fo a work, begun in 1862, until 1865.
“Strauss’s underrated Sonata is obviously an early work but is rich in freshly memorable themes. It also ambitiously includes a fugato in the first movement, which is a conventionally but imaginatively structured, the secondary material particularly appealing, while the Andante is a sad song without words and the finale a canonic vivo, here full of life and sparkle. The playing of Walton and Grimwood throughout is totally responsive, and again integrated with almost uncanny perfection. Congratulations, too, to sound engineer Chris Braclik for his excellent balance in London’s Henry Wood Hall.
International Record Review 2010
This most Germanic of romantic cello sonatas collections is all about youth — or rather later youth, when early artistic experimentation gives way to something a little more controlled. All three sonatas here come from the formative stages of their composers’ careers, and — to keep the theme going — they are played by the youthful British pairing of cellist Jamie Walton and pianist Daniel Grimwood. Richard Strauss wrote his Cello Sonata in F Op. 6 at the age of 18. It’s a mix of Brahmsian conservatism — that he’d soon abandon - and high-flung heroic gestures, which would become his trademark. Walton captures the rapturous exuberance of the cello part from the opening chords to the leaping lines of it hunt-like finale, and the technically demanding piano part is played very convincingly by Grimwood. Tricky piano parts are a staple of many romantic sonatas; they’re sometimes even more demanding than the solo part. With his Sonata in E minor op. 38, Brahms lets the pianist know that they’re a soloist in their own right. Grimwood tackles this part brilliantly, particularly the work’s closing fugue. Walton is no slouch either, and I love the way he accelerates into the climax of the opening movement. The disc closes with Ludwig Thuille’s Sonata in D minor Op. 22, in his sleeve notes, Grimwood argues that Thuille deserves more recognition, and I agree — this is a fascinating work from the composer’s early output that contains plenty of harmonic inventiveness and intensity.
Muso Magazine (50th edition special) - 5***** Star CD of the month 2010
A performance like this one is so good that it has you, for a moment, suspending disbelief. Jamie Walton and Daniel Grimwood launch into the impassioned braggadocio of the opening with such fervour and attack that the result is thrilling, even as you recognize that the whole passage is deliberately OTT. They do equally well with the climactic inflation in the finale, and ably prevent the weakly Mendelssohnian slow movement from falling too deeply into sentimentality. This is certainly among the best available versions of this , if anything, over-recorded work, ranking with the ardent rhetoric and instrumental display of Johannes Moser and Paul Rivinius on Hanssler, which I find preferable to Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax on Sony, where the pianist is so prominently balanced that he almost drowns out Ma’s cello at the big moments.
Strauss’s sonata is a youthful indescretion; the sonata of his close friend Ludwig Thuille, by contrast, is a mature work by a composer of more conservative instincts but impeccable technique. Composed in 1901-02, this is a far more impressive piece than either of Thuille’s early string quartets,. Laid out on a grand scale - it’s the longest of the three sonatas here - it effortlessly sustains its length with music of consistently high quality and interest. If Brahms is an important influence, Thuille’s orientation is very different: the first movement’s turbulent opening subject, with its massive piano writing, gives way to a lyric-heroic second subject of almost Rachmaninov-like grandeur and sweep. The big, sombre Adagio slow movement is a noble conception, which allows the beauty of Walton’s tone to shine forth while testing his powers of sostenuto playing to the utmost. The muscular finale, by turns playful and sardonic, brings the work to a very satisfying conclusion. This is a sonata that deserves a place in the general cello-piano repertoire.
“In their different ways Thuille and Struass (at any rate the teenage Strauss) were very much in thrall to Brahms, who makes a logical third to this intelligently planned programme. Walton and Grimwood turn in a first-rate performance of the E minor Sonata, playing up the lyricism rather than the gruffness in the first movement but rising to a magnificently climactic point of return in the recapitulation. There is delightful give-and-take between the two players in the minuet-like second movement, while in the fugal finale they are like a single focused organism, firm of purpose in carrying the separate voices of the polyphony onward to an absolutely decisive conclusion. “I would suggest that the Thuille sonata is enough on its own to make this disc worth considering. Not only are the performances uniformly excellent but the perfection of the instrumental balance and the vividness of the recording are quite exceptional.
Geoffrey Norris – The Telegraph 2009
The well-developed and like-minded artistic partnership of cellist Jamie Walton and pianist Daniel Grimwood makes for a strikingly beautiful, deeply affecting performance. The coupling of Grieg’s sonata, played with the utmost poise, sensitivity, poignancy and spirit, doubles the disc’s value. In both sonatas, cello and piano are equal partners in the music’s expressive substance. Walton and Grimwood achieve ideal integration here. Likewise, when the piano in the Grieg’s finale exerts weight and launches into elaborate cross-keyboard bravura, Walton matches it with passion and thrust. The urgent energy in the outer sections of the Rachmaninov’s scherzo is gripping, the dark, anguished intensity of the Grieg’s opening movement powerfully voiced. But one of the conspicuous virtues of these interpretations is their sense of proportion, balancing as they do the rich seams of mellifluous melody and the bursts of dynamism with a mature and well-defined sense of style. Warm and heartfelt, the performances tap the music’s lyricism with discreet sensibility. Both in concert and on disc, Walton and Grimwood are proving to be exceptionally perceptive players, and this recording further testifies to their technical acumen and their gifts of insight.
© Daniel Grimwood