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A Curious Recital

Paul Calistus-Ashley plays Poulenc, Schubert and Dett -
reviewed by

'... verve and sensitivity.'

From Alfred Newman Recital Hall - Paul Calistus-Ashley, piano. Poulenc; Schbert; Dett. © 2002 Sound Revelation Production

A curious recital; the lightweight Poulenc préamble and 'variations' (1936), a folk-influenced suite (1913) by rarely-heard Afro-American 'romantic', R Nathaniel Dett and, sandwiched in the middle, two of Schubert's much-loved Impromptus, D899 [listen -- track 12, 3:11-4:17].

The CD notes describe a directness and simplicity of language plus the innate lyricism shared by all three composers.

But both notes (and the internet) have scant information on Calistus-Ashley; he studied at the Royal College of Music and at Juilliard where he was greatly influenced by Beveridge Webster who, in turn, had studied with Nadia Boulanger, Robert Casadesus and also Artur Schnabel.

The Poulenc work is available on disc with pianists Gabriel Tacchino (EMI Classics 1988), Paul Crossley (SONY/BMG 1990), Olivier Cazal (Naxos 1999), Eric Parkin (Chandos 2002), Pascal Rogé; (Decca 2003) and Charles Owen (SOMM 2005).

'It is paradoxical, but true,' Poulenc is quoted as saying, 'that my piano music is the least representative genre in my output.' He identified his widely-acknowledged virtuosity at the instrument as his downfall: 'My piano writing with orchestra or chamber ensemble is of a different order,' he observed. 'It is the solo piano that somehow escapes me. With it I am a victim of false pretenses.'

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Copyright © 1 October 2006 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


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