Philip Martin, piano
The success of Volume One of The Piano Music of Billy Mayerl with Philip Martin has shown that in addition to older listeners, there is now a new generation eager to discover Mayerl’s brilliantly written piano music.
“This is the first volume in a series in which the sequels cannot arrive too soon. The principal joy resides in Billy Mayerl’s music – British piano pieces that are syncopated and melodious… Martin (he is joy number two) leaps through the repertoire with clean and infectious élan” BBC Music Magazine, July 2013 **** (on Volume One, SOMMCD 0124)
This is SOMM’s second CD of music by the legendary Billy Mayerl, one of the most successful and brilliantly gifted composer-pianists of his generation – the generation that spanned the Second World War. Mayerl’s twice-weekly radio programmes became compelling listening for literally millions of Britons, both here and on the Continent and his reputation lasted from the mid-1920s until his death in 1959. Mayerl was born in 1902 in central London’s Tottenham Court Road. Such was his development that in 1909 Billy was enrolled at the Trinity College of Music in Mandeville Place and within two years, at the age of nine, he was the soloist at Queen’s Hall in London in Grieg’s Piano Concerto (he was to play the concerto twice in performances for the BBC, in 1931 and 1936). But a far more significant experience was when he came into contact with early pre-World War I syncopated popular music and was immediately captivated.
Having left the Trinity College at the age of 16, already an accomplished pianist, he spent almost every day accompanying silent films in cinemas and playing the piano in music hall theatres. He would embroider the music with decorative runs and subtle gradations of tone, earning a growing reputation as a dazzling pianist and entertainer. In the early 1920s he began to broadcast frequently with the Savoy Hotel Havana Band (over 5,000 Broadcasts for the BBC, through his career), also recording for English Columbia and later for His Master’s Voice. By the age of 23 he had met Gershwin in London and entranced him so much with his brilliant playing of Fascinatin’ Rhythm that Gershwin entrusted him with the British premiere of his Rhapsody in Blue, which he gave at Queen’s Hall conducted by Debroy Somers.
As a composer, Mayerl produced over 300 piano pieces and more than 100 song arrangements with Marigold becoming his most famous of all. His pieces feature some of the Mayerl trademarks of lively syncopation, nimble triplets and memorable melodies underpinned by rich harmonies, all requiring virtuosity of a high order. Apart from his instant and subtle melodic appeal, the way each piece is so well laid out for the keyboard reveals a composer thoroughly at home with the instrument, as we can hear in this new selection where Philip Martin plays five of the composer’s suites alongside four solo pieces.
Acclaimed Dublin-born pianist and composer Philip Martin has a unique sought-after reputation which has made him a distinguished international artist. He has played with most of the major London orchestras and has given hundreds of broadcasts for RTE and the BBC and abroad, for RIA (Italian Radio), SFB (Berlin) and for the EBU (European Broadcasting Union), among many others.
He made his Paris debut playing the Samuel Barber piano concerto which he also premiered in Dublin, Ireland. This confirmed his passion and interest in American music and resulted in a UK-US Bi-Centennial Arts Fellowship to the United States. Following this, he made his New York debut as part of the “Britain Salutes New York” Festival.
In addition to Festivals in England, he has performed as pianist and composer in the Tanglewood and Aspen Summer Schools in the USA and has held several residencies there in various Universities, such as Syracuse (NY), Bucknell (PA) and De Paul (Chicago) as well as McGill University in Montreal, Canada. At home, he made his BBC Prom debut in the Royal Albert Hall playing Britten’s Diversions for Piano (left-hand) and Orchestra with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and returned to play Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini two years later. He has recorded several highly praised CDs for Hyperion Records including a much-lauded boxed set of the complete piano music of Louis Moreau Gottschalk. Currently he is recording the solo piano works of Billy Mayerl for SOMM Recordings.
Philip is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music, London. He is a member of Aosdana, the state sponsored academy of Irish creative artists, and last year he was awarded a Professorship by Birmingham City University in recognition of his creative work.
On This Recording
- Insect Oddities: No. 1. Wedding of an Ant
- Insect Oddities: No. 2. Ladybird Lullaby
- Insect Oddities: No. 3. Praying Mantis
- Insect Oddities: No. 4. Beetle in the Bottle
- White Heather
- Nimble-Fingered Gentleman
- Song of the Fir Tree
- The Big Top Suite: I. The Ringmaster
- The Big Top Suite: II. Clowning
- The Big Top Suite: III. Entrance of the Trick Cyclists
- The Big Top Suite: IV. Dancing Horse
- The Big Top Suite: V. Trapeze
- 6 Pianolettes: No. 1. Virginia Creeper
- 6 Pianolettes: No. 2. All-Of-A-Twist
- 6 Pianolettes: No. 3. The Jazz Master
- 3 Japanese Pictures: No. 1. Almond Blossom
- 3 Japanese Pictures: No. 2. A Temple in Kyoto
- 3 Japanese Pictures: No. 3. The Cherry Dance
- 3 Syncopated Rambles: No. 1. Junior Apprentice
- 3 Syncopated Rambles: No. 2. Printer’s Devil
- 3 Syncopated Rambles: No. 3. Milkman 6:00 a.m