coleridge-taylor piano welch

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)
Scenes from an Imaginary Ballet, Op. 74 (sic) (Op. 64, 1906)
Three Humoresques, Op. 31 (1897)
Valse Suite, Three Fours, Op. 71 (1909)
Luke Welch (piano)
rec. 2022
Private release [55]

Luke Welch is a young, talented Canadian pianist who has just produced his latest album and rather unusually, he has devoted it to the piano music of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, better known today for his orchestral and choral works than his instrumental music. These are beautifully crafted sets of pieces and if the atmosphere of the salon pervades some of them, the stylistic contrasts within groups of movements compensates for this.

The note on the composer provided in the booklet is an excellent brief introduction to his work and makes the point that that his awareness and deep affection for his African and African-American heritages greatly informed his style of composition. Yet few of the pieces chosen for inclusion in this disc show these influences to any real extent and no information is provided as to the criteria for selection or any background information as to what led to their composition. Several of Coleridge-Taylor’s piano works draw on African or African-American sources such as the African Suite Op. 35 and the 24 Negro Melodies Op. 59. Here was an opportunity to display this little-known music, presumably much more typical of his work, which seems to have been missed. In addition, the sets of pieces which are presented here, seem,  perhaps, too similar in character to make an effective programme. Further, no indication is given of the relative importance of his keyboard music in the composer’s output. He entered the Royal College of Music as violinist and only later turned to composition. What estimation of worth did he place on his piano music?

Having stated some reservations, it is pleasing to be able to report that the performances are uniformly excellent. While virtuosity is not a requirement for most these works, although one detects the occasional technical challenge, these elegant examples of Edwardian musical art can easily wither at the hands of the insensitive or thoughtless player and Luke Welch fortunately is neither of these things. Another disc exploring Coleridge-Taylor’s piano music would be very welcome, perhaps including those works which draw upon the musical heritage which he so valued.

Martyn Strachan

Availability: Artist’s website