The Norwegian pianist Håvard Gimse here includes two important sets of the piano pieces, Opp. 34 and 40, and the 6 Finnish Folk Songs, fifth of which, Fratricide, is slightly Bartókian. Sibelius’s contemporary and countryman Selim Palmgren put it perfectly when he wrote that ‘even in what for him were alien regions, [Sibelius] moves with an unfailing responsiveness to tone colour’, and Gimse brings finesse and distinction to this repertoire. This and the companion disc are first recommendations.
The first volume of this series (Naxos 8.550761) mixed the first two sonatas of Field's Op. 1 with the first nine Nocturnes. The Sonata Op. 1 No. 3 in C minor logically appears on this second volume, in a most successful performance. Dedicated to Clementi, the first movement shows distinct tendencies towards 'Sturm und Drang'. Neither movement is fast: the concluding Rondo (marked Allegretto scherzando) is bursting with wit and charm to balance the stress of the first. This piece alone justifies the modest outlay for this disc. The remaining tracks, the next nine Nocturnes in the series, demonstrate Frith's sensitivity. Importantly, he shows a laudable restraint with the sustaining pedal. His sweet cantabile is the result of an acute musical sensitivity, and he never overblows the scale of these miniatures.
'Scharwenka could not have been better served. He deserves no less' (International Record Review). 'The recorded sound has all the freshness needed for this music' (Pianist). Many young pianists of my generation cut their teeth on one or another of Xaver Scharwenka's Polish Dances; he composed about thirty of them. The Op. 3, No. 1 was immensely popular, selling millions of copies and that's the one I learned to play when I was about ten or so. On this release are the two Polish Dances, Op. 29, and they are mazurkas in all but name. They are lively and set your toe tapping as played by Seta Tanyel.