Celebrating 25 Years of Excellence

George Dyson: The Open Window


Catalogue No: SOMMCD 0622-2
Release Date: 2020-10-16
Number of Discs: 2
EAN/UPC: 748871062221
Artists: ,
Liner Notes

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 Stanford and 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 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 help develop technique and musical imagination in 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 authoritative booklet notes.

Simon Callaghan’s recent SOMM releases include British Violin Sonatas with Clare Howick (SOMMCD 0610; described by MusicWeb International as “expertly performed with unalloyed musicality and commitment”) and a survey of Roger Sacheverell Coke’s piano music (SOMMCD 0147), of which MusicWeb International said: “The commanding and virtuosic musicianship of Simon Callaghan allows this quirkily individual music to register with maximum effect – a fascinating and compelling disc”.

Making her debut on SOMM, Clíodna Shanahan has a busy performing and recording schedule for TV, radio, symphony and chamber concerts. A pianist and organist, she also records film soundtracks, most notably Howard Shore’s The Hobbit.

On This Recording

    Disc One Concerto Leggiero for two pianos*a
  1. I Allegro
  2. II Andante
  3. III Vivace
  4. The Open Window*
  5. Field and Wood
  6. Swallows
  7. Gentle Rain
  8. Fair
  9. Passers-by
  10. The Patrol
  11. The Green
  12. Evensong
  13. Primrose Mount
  14. Primrose Mount
  15. Bach's Birthday
  16. Comodo
  17. Cantabile
  18. Allegretto
  19. Vivace possibile
  20. Untitled Piano Piece*
  21. Untitled Piano Piece
  22. Six Lyrics*
  23. March
  24. Melody
  25. Folk-Dance
  26. Waltz
  27. Intermezzo
  28. Mazurka
  29. Disc Two My Birthday
  30. Delicately
  31. Brightly
  32. Quietly
  33. Twelve Easy Pieces
  34. Mazurka
  35. Waltz
  36. Scotch Snap
  37. Dance
  38. Melody
  39. Lullaby
  40. Air
  41. Song
  42. Legato Study
  43. Scale Study -
  44. Five finger Study
  45. Study in Canon
  46. Prelude and Ballet
  47. Prelude
  48. Ballet
  49. Epigrams
  50. A Capriccio
  51. All'improviso
  52. Sostenuto
  53. Ritmico
  54. Cantabile
  55. Sonore
  56. Di ballo
  57. Grazioso
  58. Con fuoco
  59. Alla capella
  60. Three Wartime Epigrams
  61. An Autograph
  62. Con moto tranquillo
  63. Sostenuto ed espressivo
  64. Four Twilight Preludes
  65. Tranquillo
  66. A capriccio
  67. Grazioso
  68. Sostenuto
a Clíodna Shanahan


“Another debt of gratitude to SOMM for adding one more piece to the great jigsaw puzzle of British 20th Century music. … Callaghan pitches his performances here to perfection. … in every instance Callaghan finds moments to cherish with phrasing, dynamics and pedalling that makes subtle and telling musical points. All too often this type of music, aimed at a younger or less able group of performers, suffers by that association with its inherent qualities masked by the limitations of those who play it. Here you can hear the understated sophistication of the writing and how well wrought this music is.… As ever, SOMM back up the excellence of the music-making with a production to match. … Callaghan’s Steinway Model ‘D’ piano sounds in superb condition. This is not music that requires the player to thunder around the keyboard but in some ways exactly this musical moderation can make greater demands of the production team to ensure that the music emerges with unforced clarity, sounding warm not thin and with presence. All of that this disc has. In turn, Dyson expert Paul Spicer provides a detailed and informative liner filling in details both about Dyson’s life and the music presented here. Again, as normal, SOMM have found an attractive an appropriate illustration for the booklet cover to top off another rewarding and valuable release. Dyson was one of several composers who dedicated much energy and creativity into producing a valuable body of work for “learners” – for all too long this important service has been neglected in terms of assessing its intrinsic musical merits. This set is an important step in that reassessment.” — Nick Barnard, MusicWeb International

“even with the fingering is simple and the length very brief, Dyson usually packs in plenty of substance, with tricky rhythms, surprising harmonies that belie his conservative image and considerable authentic charm. …in the Open Window set of 1920, Dyson succeeds in traditional ways, painting vivid musical pictures… Simon Callaghan, a devoted specialist in forgotten British repertoire, tackles this varied fare with aplomb. Cliodna Shanahan joins him for Dyson’s… two-piano arrangement of the 1951 Concerto Leggiero, almost Les Six-ish… [a] welcome release.” —Geoff Brown, BBC Music Magazine

“The past quarter of a century has brought steady reappraisal of George Dyson, and while an extensive choral output remains his main legacy, his orchestral, chamber and piano pieces should not be overlooked, as Simon Callaghan’s intégrale of the latter confirms. … Callaghan renders these and other solo pieces with a conviction not merely in their technical mastery but their musical worth. Also included here is the two-piano reduction of Concerto leggiero (1951)… [Nor is the absence of strings a real loss, given the alacrity with which Clíodna Shanahan tackles the second piano part. Sound and annotations leave nothing to be desired, so making this a desirable purchase for Dyson devotees or those wishing to try out some unfamiliar, yet rewarding music.” —Richard Whitehouse, Gramophone

“We do not generally associate Sir George Dyson with the piano, but this 101-minute album demonstrates that he was very much in touch with its repertoire… It is also good to hear the arrangement of the quirky yet voluptuous Concerto Leggiero in its scoring for two pianos, sympathetically played by Callaghan and Shanahan. Another jewel from SOMM!” —Jeremy Dibble, Gramophone (Critic’s Choice)