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Schubert | Works for piano duet

With Adrian Farmer

For release in January 2022 on the Nimbus label

Holbrooke | Late Piano Works

The music on this album dates from the composer’s later years, and are largely based on themes from his earlier successes. The inspiration for Holbrooke’s music was almost always literary; hence, the large number of symphonic poems and pieces with literary titles or subtitles in his work list.

The 8 Nocturnes, Op. 121 employ material from some of Holbrooke’s most successful and popular earlier works. The music critic Ernest Newman, in an often quoted appreciation of the composer written in 1902, wrote that “…Holbrooke can do quite easily and unconsciously what [Richard] Strauss has only done half a dozen times in his career – he can write a big, heartfelt melody that searches us to the very bone…”, and these Nocturnes display Josef’s gift for lyricism. The two Fantasie-Sonatas, Opp. 124 & 128 respectively, are important and substantial works from Holbrooke’s later years. The first is closely based on the opening movement of the Dramatic Choral Symphony ‘Homage to E.A. Poe’, Op. 48 (1902-1907), but skilfully adapted for pianistic effectiveness. The second Fantasie-Sonata, ‘Destiny’, does not recycle earlier material: it is an entirely original composition of two movements. Based on the slow movement of the fine Horn Trio, Op. 28 (1902), Cambrian Ballade No. 4 Op. 104 Maentrog commences in the lilting character of a berceuse. A more animated central section leads to an ardent reprise of the opening theme and a coda like a sudden shower of rain. It is tempting to think that in this composition the composer looked back wistfully to a period when his creative fires burned brightly and his talents were recognized by the musical world.

[Gareth Vaughan]

Christmas Dawn

A special digital-only release for Christmas 2020

Richard Blackford, composer writes,

Christmas Dawn is a simple, hymn-like tune presented first softly, with a simple chordal accompaniment. As it gains momentum, with more expansive piano figuration the tune develops and extends. A contrasting middle section with staccato quavers heralds the return of the theme in a full, joyful iteration, before closing softly again. I sent the score to my publisher and they suggested that the pianist Simon Callaghan record Christmas Dawn with an accompanying video, as a celebratory lockdown project at Wyastone Recording Studio that might cheer people up, given the uncertainties of Christmas this year. I hope the music and the video will give pleasure at a time when Christmas cheer is much needed.

Gramophone Video of the Day (4 December 2020)

Scala Radio Article (4 December 2020)

The Story of Babar

With Miriam Margolyes (narrator)

A delightful set of circumstances combined to produce the beloved masterpiece, Babar. The journey began in 1930 when Laurent and Mathieu, sons of French author and illustrator Jean de Brunhoff were told an enchanting bedtime story by their mother, Cécile. So moved were the young boys by the curious tale of the young elephant’s adventures, that they asked their father to create illustrations. The resulting book initiated a series that was to be the crowning achievement of Jean de Brunhoff’s short professional life, and that of his son Laurent, who added further volumes following his father’s death in 1937. The children have acknowledged that the story originated with Cécile de Brunhoff, who, feeling that her contribution was too small to be credited, requested that her name be removed from the publications.

In a heart-warmingly similar situation ten years later, Poulenc was spending time with the granddaughter of one of his cousins. Noting that she became bored with the music he was playing, Poulenc put Brunhoff’s Babar on the piano and began to improvise, to the great delight of the young girl. The musical ideas born that day were to simmer away at the back of Poulenc’s mind until he completed the work in 1945. It was premiered on French radio the following year.

Scala Radio Article (4 December 2020)

Dyson Piano Music

SOMM Recordings announces the first complete survey on disc of George Dyson’s music for solo piano including five premiere recordings performed by Simon Callaghan in a specially priced two-CD set.

Callaghan is joined by Clíodna Shanahan for the first recording of the two-piano version of Concerto Leggiero, a mature work originally composed for piano and string orchestra. Almost classical in its sense of economy, the two-piano arrangement boasts a remarkable lyricism.

Born in Halifax in 1833, Dyson studied with Charles Villiers Stanford and Hubert Parry before becoming one of the most prominent British composers and distinguished teachers of his generation. Best known for his choral work, his piano music spans his compositional career. Heard in its entirety, it provides valuable new insights into his development as a composer.

Other first recordings include the seven-year-old Dyson’s first work for piano, Untitled Piano Piece, the exam board commission for young pianists, Twelve Easy Pieces, and The Open Window and Six Lyrics, character pieces designed to encourage young pianists.

Among other works included are the Debussy-accented Primrose Mount, the dazzling set of fugues Bach’s Birthday and so-called ‘War Epigrams’, inspired by Dyson’s experiences on the Western Front before being invalided home

Dyson biographer Paul Spicer provides the authoritative booklet notes.

Entente Musicale

With Clare Howick (violin)

SOMM RECORDINGS is pleased to announce Entente Musicale, a celebration of Anglo-French music from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries that sees violinist Clare Howick and pianist Simon Callaghan return to the label following their well-received collection of British Violin Sonatas.

Coke Cello Sonatas

Thanks to the tireless advocacy of Simon Callaghan, the music of the Derbyshire-born Roger Sacheverell Coke has started to emerge from the obscurity in which it has languished since the composer’s death in 1972.

Despite showing considerable early promise, Coke remained an outsider in British musical life. Following studies at Eton (until 1931), he took private lessons with Mabel Lander (piano) and Alan Bush (composition) rather than attending university or music college. Coke credited Bush for helping him to find his musical voice, and cited Arnold Bax as a major influence, but his musical sympathies also extended to Bruckner, Mahler and Rachmaninov at a time when all three were deeply unfashionable among musical cognoscenti. His piano concertos nonetheless attracted widespread attention, with performances in Bath and Bournemouth, and BBC radio broadcasts of the second concerto in 1934 and the third concerto in 1939.

The three cello sonatas featuring on this disc frame the years 1936 to 1941, a very productive period in Coke’s life in which he also composed his second symphony (dedicated to Rachmaninov), the third and fourth piano concertos, a set of 24 preludes for piano, the opera The Cenci, the second and third piano sonatas, the first violin sonata, the Poem for cello, piano and small orchestra, as well as several sets of songs and other smaller pieces. This output is all the more remarkable given that Coke was already showing signs of the mental illness that would have a major impact on his creativity in later years, regularly leading to his hospitalisation for several months at a time.

British Violin Sonatas

The story of British music for violin and piano is a fascinating one, but by no means as fully appreciated as it might be. It forms part of the broader genre of British chamber music, overshadowed by the breadth of orchestral, choral, and solo vocal music. Violinist Clare Howick and pianist Simon Callaghan pay tribute to the remarkable flourishing of British violin sonatas in the 20th century with a collection of music by six key figures of the modern chamber music renaissance in Britain.


Pick of the day (26 April 2020) on WFMT, Chicago's classical music station!

The Strad

Recommended Recording in The Strad (June 2020)

Schumann & Poulenc

Les Soirées de Nazelles and Carnaval are not only two of my favourite pieces to perform, but as some of the finest examples of sets of miniatures, they also make excellent companions on disc. It is such a pleasure to be able to present them both here, alongside another set of character pieces by Schumann, his much-loved Kinderszenen. Making this recording has been a true labour of love.

£ 10

The Deeper the Blue...

SOMM Recordings’ The Deeper the Blue offers an intriguing exploration of colour and timbre in music and a revealing investigation of the connections between four very different composers over a near-100-year period.

Taking its title from painter Wassily Kandinsky’s assertion that a deepening colour ultimately “turns into silent stillness and becomes white”, the recording illuminates the intimate relationship between student and teacher: Vaughan Williams and Maurice Ravel, Kenneth Hesketh with Henri Dutilleux and the influence on Dutilleux of Ravel.

Sherwood/Parry Works for Two Pianos

The two works by Sherwood presented on this disc were not published during the composer's lifetime and are recorded here for the first time, using texts prepared and edited by Hiroaki Takenouchi from manuscripts held by the Bodleian Library.

Nicodé Ein Liebesleben and other piano works

Felix Draeseke’s description of Nicodé as ‘more a moderate progressive than a cacophonist’—in contrast to his younger contemporary Richard Strauss—may have been intended as a compliment, but doesn’t begin to do justice to this profoundly enjoyable music, its several influences (most notably Schumann) never far away.

Tableaux de Provence

Dominic Childs and Simon Callaghan present an engaging recital of works either written by or inspired by women, and that were written with both piano and orchestral accompaniment in mind – the 1903 Rhapsodie by Claude Debussy sits alongside works by Fernande Decruck, Paule Maurice & François Borne.

Husum Piano Rarities 2018

Another amazing collection from the 32rd Rarities of Piano Music Festival in the North German city of Husum. A wide selection of interesting and often forgotten piano music played by some of the leading pianists of today.

Including Simon Callaghan's performance of short works by Nicodé, the full version of which can be heard on the Hyperion disc CDA68269.

Karel Bredenhorst: In Pieces

Classical short pieces in unique combinations with cello, piano and bandonéon

Duo Verzaro 2016

Karel Bredenhorst and I are very pleased to present our first CD, on the new Cervo Chamber Music label! It was a wonderful experience recording in Cervo and the fantastic acoustic of the Oratorio di Santa Caterina is captured on this disc in some of the finest works for cello and piano. The first ever CD recording in Cervo, undoubtedly the first of many!

£ 15

Thea Musgrave: Phoenix Rising

It is my great pleasure to be involved in this disc, released to celebrate Thea Musgrave's 90th birthday in 2018! I really enjoyed working with Nathan Vale, Simon Wallfisch and Hiroaki Takenouch in her 'Poets in Love', a fascinating cycle of 17 poems spanning many centuries and languages.

Rheinberger/Scholz Concertos

Just what the Romantic Piano Concerto series does best: three works unlikely to be encountered in the concert hall, in performances by artists who wholeheartedly—and justifiably—believe in the music. The high expectations of this series are amply realized in volume seventy-six. Watch the trailer here.

Read programme notes here.

Specialist Classical Chart: Best position #2 on 05/07/2018. Weeks in chart: 5

Duo Verzaro 2017

My second CD with Karel Bredenhorst, recorded at the beautiful Oratorio di Santa Caterina in Cervo (Liguria) was released in December 2017.

£ 10

Chopin & Liszt arranged by Saint-Saëns

Given the 'romantic' nature of these two sonatas, Saint-Saëns could have been forgiven for producing two-piano versions that treated the originals as bases for his own imaginings. In fact, as far as a fourth party can judge, he has been scrupulous in respecting the composers' intentions.

Read the article published on Stretto about the release >

He throws himself into the concerto's physically taxing, Scriabinesque sound world with passion, total commitment and, it seems, heartfelt affection.

Gramophone - 06/11/2017