"The Enchanted Piano" is a beautifully recorded collection comprising some of the most evocative classical piano music ever written. Dazzling, virtuosic masterpieces are complemented by poetic nocturnes.
About the Artist
Bernard Pulham is a pianist from the United Kingdom. He studied at Chethams School of Music with Charles Hopkins (a pupil of Georges Cziffra, John Ogdon and Alexis Weissenberg).
After graduating from Dartington College of Arts, Bernard continued to give public recitals during his postgraduate study of the composer Iannis Xenakis.including one of the earliest performances of Peter Maxwell Davies' piano sonata. He later met with, and performed the music of, the leading modernists such as Toru Takemitsu, Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage, alongside a 20 year career in Music and Creative Arts education.
In recent years Bernard has been developing his repertoire of romantic and impressionist music; extending his technique profoundly for the performance of virtuosic and programmatic pieces. His interpretations of this repertoire have been hailed as original and subtle, as well as astonishing and spectacular.
Programme Notes by Bernard Pulham
I planned a dreamlike recital of romantic piano music, framed between the daylight of two extrovert Russian showpieces. At the centre the exquisite clarity of Chopin's Études acts as a kind of reawakening, before the listener is led back by a Nocturne through a second sequence of fantasies. Several of these famous works are often heard as finales and encores, but in this programme I try to express new and imaginative associations between them.
1. Published in 1921, Trois Mouvements de Petrouchka brought the essence of Stravinsky's most popular ballet music to the hands of the virtuoso Arthur Rubinstein, and has remained a challenge to pianists ever since. The music of the Danse Russe reveals the three famous puppets as they are brought to life by the showman's flourish at the Shrovetide Fair.
2. Feux Follets refers to the lost souls that are said to appear as lights over water, dangerously beguiling to unwary travellers. Liszt's textural masterpiece foreshadows Ravel's Ondine as a pianistic vision of fatal beauty.
3. Asked about his"Pavane for a Dead Princess" Ravel admitted he was drawn to the poetic quality of the title rather than any particular story. The music is sombre, delicate and heartbreaking.
4. L' Isle Joyeuse is a passionate evocation of pleasure. Debussy seems to have taken this composition to heart as he threw himself into a new love affair well away from his Parisian home. The chosen title refers to the mythical Island of Cythera, birthplace of Aphrodite, though Debussy changed the French spelling of "Île" to the English "Isle" in honour of his romance in Jersey.
5-7. The young Chopin dedicated his 12 Piano Études opus 10 "à mon ami, Franz Liszt". Without trying to master these wonderful studies, the ability to play almost every other piece in this collection would remain far out of reach! Each Étude has earned a nickname for itself: The "Chromatique" is notorious for requiring the three weakest fingers of the right hand to play a legato chromatic run throughout. The "Tristesse" Étude (also know as "Farewell") presents a beautifully sincere melody which becomes overwhelmed with anxiety and trauma at the climax, until those feelings are again masked behind the returning theme. Cascading runs and rhythmic chords alternate between both hands in the rapid "Torrent" Étude, building energy until the bravura finish.
8. The Nocturne in D flat is perhaps the most marvellous of Chopin's famous miniatures. Lyrical ornamentation grows ever more elaborate, with effortless poise and sustained emotional content.
9. In his popular La Campanella, Liszt reworked the melody of Paganini into a succession of marvellous variations which should always sound as clear and precise as the "little bell" of the title.
10. Gnomenreigen is the second in a pair of Concert Studies written by Liszt during his later years, which recall the whimsical poetry of his earlier compositions. A fleeting lightness of touch is used to portray the dancing in this fantastic forest scene.
11. Debussy's Clair de Lune shines with nostalgic elegance, with the interplay of light and shade of a moonlit vista. It was inspired by a poem of Paul Verlaine.
12. As the opening piece in Ravel's Suite "Gaspard De La Nuit", this portrait of water spirit "Ondine" stands at the very pinnacle of all piano music. Just beneath the shimmering surface you can hear her seductive voice calling, and if you don't completely empathise with those mortals who would fatefully follow her into the lake, then it is clear the music is not being played beautifully enough!
13. Rimsky-Korsakov's popular Flight of the Bumblebee can be heard in several arrangements for piano. This exciting version is transcribed from the legendary recordings of the Hungarian Virtuoso, Georges Cziffra with his astonishingly ability to play the theme in lightning-fast interlocked octaves, and entirely with the left hand while he improvised with his right!
Many thanks to :
Judith M Smith, Mornington Lockett and Sandra C Deshors for the inspiration they give me to work hard for a change!
My gratitude for the musical suggestions of
Sophie Yates, Asuka Takami, and Mary O'Connor
-In Memory of Charles Hopkins-