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McCawley: 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel – 16 Waltzes – 6 Piano Pieces

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Catalogue No: SOMMCD 0116
Release Date: 07/01/2012
Number of Discs: 1
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Brahms Piano music
Variations & Fugue on a Theme of Handel, op. 24
Waltzes, op. 39
Klavierstücke, op. 118

Leon McCawley, piano

With this new release (release date: 16 July 2012) SOMM is very pleased to add a third recording to its catalogue of recordings with pianist Leon McCawley. Having spent a considerable part of his concert career playing Brahms’s  piano music to audiences —  and the Handel Variations in particular – Leon feels he has really made it his very own. His individual thoughts on the music bear the hallmark of the mature artist who has the means and talent to express them in this recording.

In Leon’s own words: “I’m delighted to be continuing my relationship with SOMM recording a solo recital disc of Brahms following on from our releases of Chopin and Barber piano music. At the heart of the recording is the magnificently structured Handel Variations and Fugue, a work that I performed at the 1993 Leeds International Piano Competition and it has remained one of my favourite variation works to play in concert ever since. In a way it’s Brahms’s keyboard response to and continuation from Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations. The music is full of vivid and exciting contrasts, exuding joy and majesty. I complement this great work with the light-hearted charm of his set of Waltzes Op. 39 and end the disc with some of Brahms’s most poignant and heartfelt utterances at the piano, the Klavierstücke Op. 118.”

There is no doubt that the Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel, Op. 24, which Brahms dedicated to Clara Schumann on her birthday in September of 1861, is one of the summits of Brahms’s entire keyboard output, showing him at the height of his powers. The choice of a Baroque theme, the strictness of the variations, the richness and scope of the piano technique, and the lavish display of contrapuntal learning in the concluding Fugue, all combine to present Brahms in the role of preserver and representative tradition.

The set of 16 Waltzes, Op. 39 was first published in 1865 as a piano duet and the version for solo piano followed two years later. Brahms dedicated them to his critic-friend Eduard Hanslick. The Waltzes clearly relate to the dance-music of Schubert, to which he was paying special attention during the mid-1860s. They are full of melodic charm and invention and one can easily imagine why they have become every pianist’s favourites.

The Six Pieces Op. 118  were composed around Brahms’s 60th year and they swiftly enshrine the essence of the composer’s many-sided genius. They form part of four sets of pieces published as opp. 116-119 and they are his final piano works. Into these works, short yet infinitely subtle, Brahms distilled a lifetime’s meditation on the instrument’s capabilities.

English pianist Leon McCawley leapt to prominence when he won both First Prize in the International Beethoven Piano Competition in Vienna and Second Prize in the Leeds International Piano Competition at the age of nineteen in 1993.

Since then, McCawley has given highly acclaimed recitals that include  major concert halls in London, Europe and the United States. He performs frequently with many of the top British orchestras and has performed several times at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. He broadcasts regularly on BBC Radio 3 in recital and with many of the BBC orchestras. He has also performed with major orchestras in the US and Europe and has worked with conductors Daniele Gatti, Paavo Järvi, Kurt Masur, Sir Simon Rattle and many others.

www.leonmccawley.com

On This Recording

  1. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Aria
  2. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Variation 1
  3. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Variation 2
  4. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Variation 3
  5. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Variation 4
  6. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Variation 5
  7. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Variation 6
  8. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Variation 7
  9. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Variation 8
  10. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Variation 9
  11. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Variation 10
  12. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Variation 11
  13. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Variation 12
  14. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Variation 13
  15. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Variation 14
  16. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Variation 15
  17. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Variation 16
  18. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Variation 17
  19. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Variation 18
  20. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Variation 19
  21. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Variation 20
  22. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Variation 21
  23. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Variation 22
  24. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Variation 23
  25. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Variation 24
  26. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Variation 25
  27. 25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Fugue
  28. 16 Waltzes: No. 1 in B Major
  29. 16 Waltzes: No. 2 in E Major
  30. 16 Waltzes: No. 3 in G-Sharp Minor
  31. 16 Waltzes: No. 4 in E Minor
  32. 16 Waltzes: No. 5 in E Major
  33. 16 Waltzes: No. 6 in C-Sharp Major
  34. 16 Waltzes: No. 7 in C-Sharp Minor
  35. 16 Waltzes: No. 8 in B-Flat Major
  36. 16 Waltzes: No. 9 in D Minor
  37. 16 Waltzes: No. 10 in G Major
  38. 16 Waltzes: No. 11 in B Minor
  39. 16 Waltzes: No. 12 in E Major
  40. 16 Waltzes: No. 13 in B Major
  41. 16 Waltzes: No. 14 in G-Sharp Minor
  42. 16 Waltzes: No. 15 in A-Flat Major
  43. 16 Waltzes: No. 16 in C-Sharp Minor
  44. 6 Piano Pieces: No. 1. Intermezzo in A Minor
  45. 6 Piano Pieces: No. 2. Intermezzo in A Major
  46. 6 Piano Pieces: No. 3. Ballade in G Minor
  47. 6 Piano Pieces: No. 4. Intermezzo in F Minor
  48. 6 Piano Pieces: No. 5. Romanze in F Major
  49. 6 Piano Pieces: No. 6. Intermezzo in E-Flat Minor