This recording celebrates the ongoing attraction of Italy and especially Rome as a place of artistic pilgrimage and inspiration.
It premieres Australian composer Michael Kieran Harvey’s Carpe Diem (2015) in context with Italian-inspired solo piano works by signi cant composers of the past, including the Italian composers Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968), the Hungarian Franz Liszt (1811-1886), the American Charles Gri es (1885-1920) and the Frenchman Pierre Petit (1922-2000).
Born in Tasmania, Arabella Teniswood-Harvey studied piano in Melbourne where, in 1999, she was one of the few elite young Australian musicians awarded full scholarship for the prestigious Australian National Academy of Music’s inaugural Advanced Performance Program.
“Teniswood-Harvey handles this sometimes arcane material with admirable command. The Liszt work is a restrained reading compared to those recorded by more flamboyant, effect-craving pianists, and its pages are negotiated without interpolated histrionics or nerve-tightening fluster. Real rarities, the Griffes pieces enjoy excellent treatment, their author’s uneven key signatures and mutating metres enunciated with an underlying stability that gives the composer great service, especially in his The Fountain of the Acqua Paola and White Peacock sketches more than in the not-as-original Clouds and Nightfall movements.
Both here and in Respighi’s preludes, Teniswood-Harvey makes her most eloquent cases. If the Gregorian is undetectable, the virtuosity needed to handle demands on sheer stamina in the middle one and sustaining the elongated tension in the last is impressive. Further, the pianist keeps the preludes’ textural complex lucid, particularly in the three-stave spread of the concluding Lento. By comparison, the Petit pieces strike me as amiable atmospheric rambles, the San Carlo section making a striking initial impression for its unexpectedly determined statement while the Galoppatoio bridle path, despite its suggestive title, could be depicting anywhere.
Harvey’s work, an injunction to action before it’s too late, was written as a birthday present for its current interpreter. Aggressive, restless, packed with notes, it grabs attention straight away – like its composer in action – and doesn’t let up, even when the dynamic level sinks. Inspired by the pines in the Villa Borghese gardens, Respighi’s opening movement depicts children playing – actually, rorting around the place with no concern for the plant life – and Harvey mirrors the original’s frenetic action, although the emotional effect is more serious. At the same time, it offers a final reaction to Rome that brings the disc to a close with a driving contemporary edge. It’s all well worth hearing, both for the high quality performances and for the opportunity to hear some illuminating rarities.”
— Clive O'Connell, O'Connell the Music
“Stylish, intellectual and artistic, this production is quintessentially Italian in its elegance, combining music, expertly written text and photography.”
Australian pianist Arabella Teniswood-Harvey has devised an attractive program, skilfully selected from Italy-inspired pieces that range from Liszt in the 19th century to Michael Kieran Harvey in the 21st. Her performances are superb and, before the listener hears any music, s/he will be struck by the quality of the accompanying booklet – Teniswood-Harvey has a special interest in the relationships between music and visual art, enhancing her insightful program notes by a number of her own photographic images. The first item on the CD, Les jeux d’eaux à la Villa D’Este from Liszt’s Années de Pèlerinage vol. III, opens with ripplings of the fountain, trills and rills, the ebb and flow, gradual resurgence and majestic cascades. This work is a picturesque depiction of the famous fountains in the gardens of the Villa d’Este in Tivoli, near Rome. Apart from its descriptive qualities, Teniswood-Harvey gives us interesting information about the spiritual aspects of this beautiful piece, knowledge that would permeate her compelling performance.
Although the American composer Charles T. Griffes travelled to Europe, it appears that he did not go to Rome but was inspired by the poetry of one who had visited Italy – William Sharp, a Scot. Griffes’ four Roman Sketches, written in 1915/16, are quite Debussian and impressionistic. The first of these, “The White Peacock”, is lyrical and whimsical – the listener can easily imagine the peacock wandering through a lovely garden with its splendid feathers on display. “Nightfall” opens with low, ponderous chords, somewhat menacing in mood and contrasting with a meditative section; a wonderful surge of notes in a brief climax leads to an extended pianissimo ending as darkness slowly falls. “The Fountain of the Acqua Paola” continues the fountain theme, linking with the Liszt work, and a photograph of the fountain on the back page of the booklet provides a visual aide to enjoyment of the music. The final piece sketches “Clouds” as they march across the sky in slow, stately chords, becoming misty and mysterious as they drift off into the cosmos. Teniswood-Harvey’s interpretations of this enchanting mix of romanticism and impressionism are sensitive and expressive.
Respighi’s Tre Preludi per pianoforte sopra melodie gregoriane date from 1919-21. Glorious runs up and down the keyboard characterise the first of these preludes, “Molto lento”; it is quite romantic in mood, languid and elegiac. The second prelude, “Tempestoso”, is virtuosic, breathlessly exciting and dynamic, receding into a placid section that takes the listener to calm and meditative space before the tempest briefly erupts once again. The third prelude described as “Lento” begins quietly, gently moving along for some time until the listener is in a state of total peace and relaxation.
In Onde: 2 Studi per pianoforte (Waves: 2 studies for piano) Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco returns us to the watery theme in two waves, short and long. “Onde corte” paints a peaceful picture of a sunlit lake. “Onde lunghe”, the long wave, is more stormy, with arpeggios billowing up and down the keyboard to evoke a majestic oceanic scenario. In both studies, rippling right hand arpeggios flow over the top of a melody in the left hand, interrupted occasionally by chordal progressions.
Rome, l’unique objet … by Pierre Petit was written in 1946, the year when Petit won the Prix de Rome. The first of four movements, “Pincio Hill”, refers to the site of the Villa Medici, home to the French Academy and winners of the Prix de Rome; it is a gentle, restrained work. An aquatic reference reappears in “Néréïdes” (sea nymphs) in another soft and contemplative piece which gives no hint of those infamous sirens of the sea. Solemn chords distinguish “San Carlo”, creating a church-like atmosphere with its hymn-like harmonies. “Galoppatoio” is a lively description of a riding track within the Borghese Gardens, near the Villa Medici (photo of the gardens on the inside cover of the booklet) – the music is sprightly, with unusual rhythms. This composer is not well known so it is a pleasure to hear his music. Michael Kieran Harvey wrote Carpe Diem – Italian Gothic ‘Bas-Relief’ as a birthday gift for his wife Arabella Teniswood-Harvey, knowing that she was well able to perform this virtuoso work. The composition resulted from their trip to Italy in 2015 and their subsequent discussions about how the distinctive pines in the Villa Borghese might be depicted in piano music. The result is Carpe Diem (‘seize the day’), a “rumination” on Respighi’s The Pines of Rome. The tumultuous opening, with rolling figures up and down the keyboard and dark rumblings in the bass, gives way to delicate tracery in a soft, sensuous middle section, then building up with wonderful surging cascades of chords and runs to a soft, high finish. This dazzling piece receives an impressive, bravura performance from its dedicatee.
Michael Kieran Harvey, himself a virtuoso pianist as well as a composer, was producer of the CD, with recording and editing by Blake Stickland and mastering by Martin Wright in Move Records Studios.
There are no durations listed for the works – they are not essential but, as a former classical music program planner for radio, I know that it is useful to have accurate timings to hand for that particular occupation. This comment is an observation, not a criticism, and in no way detracts from the overall assessment of the CD as an excellent production.”
— Gwen Bennett, Music Trust Website
- Années de Pelerinage vol. III "Les jeux d'eaux la Ville d'Este" Franz Liszt
- The White Peacock
- The fountain of the Acqua Paola
- No. 1 (Molto lento)
- No. 2 (Tempestoso)
- No. 3 (Lento)
- No.1 Onde corte
- No. 2 Onde lunghe
- San Carlo
- Carpe Diem (2015) Con mote - Meno moss, con rubato - A tempo Michael Kieran Harvey
Roman Sketches, Op. 7 Charles Tomlinson Griffes
Tre Preludi pe pianoforte sopra melodie Gregoriane Ottorino Respighi
Onde: 2 Studi per pianoforte Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco
Suite pour le piano Pierre Petit
Franz Liszt (1811–1886) was a 19th-century Hungarian composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher. As a composer, Liszt was one of the most prominent representatives of the "Neudeutsche Schule" ("New German School").
Michael Kieran Harvey is one of the foremost interpreters of contemporary piano music of his generation. A champion of Australian music and himself a composer, he regularly commissions new Australian music and has performed with Australia's leading contemporary music ensembles and orchestras.