Saturday, September 29, 2007

Piano Professional Autumn 2007 magazine now out!

The Autumn 2007 Magazine 'Piano Professional', the magazine for the teaching pianist, is now published and available direct from EPTA UK for £3.75 ( or 08456 581054). This is the second issue that Murray McLachlan has been editor for. The magazine is the flagship publication for the the European Piano Teachers' Association UK section, being read not only by pedagogues nationally, but also by pianofiles and people who love the instrument.

There are reviews, news piece and articles on Czerny, Seymour Lipkin, Eric Korngold, Chaminade, Piano technique, Prepared Pianos and contributions from Vanessa Latarche, Penelope Roskell, Anton Kuerti, Karl Lutchmayer, Jessica Duchen and many others. It differs from 'International Piano' and Rhinegold's 'Piano' (both of which McLachlan continues to contribute to) in that a more 'hands-on' approach is stressed to teaching and education. Thus in the new issue there is a 'motivation symposium' in which a panel of teachers discuss how to deal with students' concerns, as well as an article on what it is like to study music at Cambridge- through the eyes of a talented pianist undergraduate.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Herald Review November 1st

This review from ‘The Herald’ on November 1st 2006 comes from the second lunchtime recital at Ramshorn Theatre, Glasgow and featured the second half of the Wigmore programme from September 10th. The concert is part of the ongoing national recital tour, sponsored by the UK Shostakovich Society.

MURRAY MCLACHLAN, Ramshorn, Glasgow
Michael Tumelty

Murray McLachlan’s second recital yesterday in his short series entitled Shostakovich and his Comrades, marking the centenary of the Russian composer’s birth, was a very different animal from the first.
The core of the programme was a rare performance of Shostakovich’s Second Piano Sonata, written during the war years but bearing no resemblance, as far as I could judge, to any of the great orchestral works of the period. The rippling passages in its first movement surrounded a pawky little march that apparently paid lip-service to Soviet realism, though, as McLachlan pointed out, then underlined in his penetrating performance, the music might well have been coloured with that sardonic touch so typical of the composer.
It was, however, in its extraordinary slow movement that the sonata made its most striking impression, with expressionistic music that might have come straight out of the Second Viennese School in another country and a radically different culture, though this, too, was undercut by the typically dry staccato music with a hint in its tread of a funeral march. The finale, stunningly played by McLachlan, was a dazzling example of the theme and variations species, where Shostakovich, in a masterpiece of coherence and clarity, never once let the theme slip out of focus.
In prefacing the Shostakovich with Ronald Stevenson’s powerfully eloquent and haunting Recitative and Air, a memorial to the Russian composer built on the notes of his motto theme, DSCH, McLachlan broadened the depth and scope of his survey of little-known Russian treasures, before winding up a superb recital with Shchedrin’s lunatic and madcap Naughty Limericks Concerto, in which the Keystone Cops teamed up with Road Runner a la Russe.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Manchester Evening News Shostakovich CD review

Manchester Evening News Review

October 20th 2006


Shostakovich and his comrades (Dunelm)
Kabalevsky: Sonata no. 3
Myaskovsky: Song and Rhapsody
Shostakovich: Sonatas nos 1 & 2
Ronald Stevenson: Recitative and Air (DSCH)
Shchedrin: Naughty Limericks.
Murray McLachlan (Dunelm DRED 0264, mid-price)

The International Summer School and Festival for Pianists at Chetham’s School of Music, organised by Murray McLachlan, has been a high-value listener event since he began it, so it’s good to find some of the performances preserved on CD. This one is by Murray himself, recorded late last August shortly after the festival, and celebrates the Shostakovich centenary with vivid performances of the first and second sonatas, along with a varies set of pieces by other Russian giants of the 20th century, plus an odd little in-memoriam piece by Ronald Stevenson. The two Shostakovich sonatas are far apart in style. The Kabalevsky is a fascinating and in some ways quite Romantic work, and the Myaskovsky even more so. McLachlan rises to all of them in this programme, never sentimental but often deeply moving – and rounds them off with some hilarious clowning by Shchedrin.
Robert Beale

'Key recording' award for Stevenson recording in Penguin Guide to CDs 2006


STEVENSON,Ronald (born 1928)

Passacaglia on D.S.C.H.

*** Divine Art 25013. McLachlan

It was the appearance of John Ogdon’s remarkable LP set of the Passacaglia on DSCH in 1967 that alerted collectors to Ronald Stevenson’s music. He composed the Passacaglia between 1960 and 1962 and, like Sorabji’s Opus Clavicembalisticum or Busoni’s Fantasia contrappuntistica (Stevenson is a keen and persuasive advocate of that composer), it is some-thing of a tour de force. It is a mighty set of variations on the four-note motif D-S-C-H derived from Shostakovich’s monogram, lasting without a break for some 80 minutes. Later on in the score Stevenson introduces another four-note anagram, B-A-C-H, perhaps a reference to Busoni’s Fantasia contrapuntistica. When he presented Shostakovich with the score at the 1962 Edinburgh Festival, he said that the combination of Russian and German motifs symbolized his hope that the two nations, and mankind generally, would live in harmony. The twelfth section cleverly alludes to the microtonal scale of the Highland bagpipes and incorporates a seventeenth-century Pibroch Cumha ne Cloinne (‘Lament for the children’) and there is a formidable climatic triple fugue in which the Dies irae surfaces. In the 1960s Sir William Walton hailed the piece as ‘really tremendous – magnificent – I can’t remember having been so excited by a new work for a very long time’. Murray McLachlan is an impressive exponent of this score and he is very well recorded. (Some years ago he recorded the two piano concertos that Stevenson wrote about this time, so he is completely a tuned to this music).

Saturday, November 04, 2006

New review for Shostakovich and his comrades CD

The following review appeared in The Herald on October 21st.

Shostakovich and his Comrades: A Centenary CelebrationDmitri KABALEVSKY (1904-87)Sonata No. 3 in F major, Op.46 (1946) [13:55]Nikolai MYASKOVSKY (1881-1950)’Song and Rhapsody’, Op.58 (1942) [11:32]Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-75)Piano Sonata No.1, Op.12 (1926) [12:36]Ronald STEVENSON (b. 1928)Recitative and Air (DSCH) (1975) [5:35]Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-75)Piano Sonata No.2 in B minor, Op.61 (1942) [27:06]Rodion SHCHEDRIN (b. 1932)Tschastuschki: concerto for piano solo, ‘Naughty Limericks’ (1963/99)Murray McLachlan (piano)rec. The Whiteley Hall, Manchester, 26 & 27 August 2006. DDDDUNELM DRD0264 [79:44]

Pianist Murray McLachlan’s new CD is a mind-blowing tour de force of repertoire and performance. Devised as a centenary celebration of the great Russian composer, McLachlan’s disc is certainly that: the performances of Shostakovich’s two sonatas address the major issue of their neglect. The first, a youthful work, is a monstrous piece of percussive pianism which, crudely, out-Prokofiev’s Prokofiev, while the second, from the war years, is a more measured, mature and “interior” piece, movingly played by McLachlan. The core value of the disc resides not just in Shostakovich but in the fact that McLachlan spreads the net wide, taking in Kabalevsky’s wonderful. Prokofiev-influenced Third Sonata, Myaskovsky’s deeply profound Song and Rhapsody, Shchedrin’s wickedly outrageous Naughty Limericks concerto for solo piano, and Ronald Stevenson’s image-laden memorial to Shostakovich, Recitative and Air. A very important issue, recorded, McLachlan told me last week, at Chetham’s Music School this summer in a series of single takes. Astonishing stuff, some of which McLachlan will be playing live in Glasgow’s Ramshorn on Tuesday 31.

Michael Tumelty, CD Reviews in The Guide, Arts; Books; Cinema; p4; The Herald , October 21, 2006.Ref. 0264 rev MT Glasgow Herald.doc

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

'THe Herald' Shostakovich Tour Review by Michael Tumelty

This review from ‘The Herald’ on October 11 2006 comes from a lunchtime recital for Strathclyde University and featured the first half of the Wigmore programme from September 10th. The concert is part of the ongoing national recital tour, sponsored by the UK Shostakovich Society. Part two of the Wigmore programme will reach Glasgow on October 31 and Nov 1st (see tour dates):

MURRAY MCLACHLAN, Ramshorn, Glasgow
Michael Tumelty
Pianist Murray McLachlan couldn’t keep the mischievous twinkle out of his eyes yesterday as he faced his near-capacity audience at Ramshorn. “Don’t worry”, he reassured the crowd, most of whom were clearly shattered. “That was a one-off.”
The one-off in question was Shostakovich’s First Piano Sonata, little-known, seldom-played, but one of the loudest, most aggressive and most violent pieces in the entire literature of the keyboard. McLachlan gave the sonata a rare outing, a committed, impassioned pounding and, altogether, a good seeing-to by placing it as the final item in the first of his two Glasgow recitals entitled Shostakovich and his Comrades, designed to mark the centenary of Russia’s greatest composer of the last century and the release of McLachlan’s latest CD, which features the music in his touring programme.
From start to end, with here and there a lull for some ominous thunder, the sonata, written when Shostakovich was barely out of his teens, represents a young man’s assault on his listeners’ ears and preconceptions, as well as a musically-virile young composer’s display of self-awareness of his own prodigious skills.
At the heart of the otherwise non-stop, motoric, percussively-lunatic sonata lies a single moment of respite, where the music implodes before starting over. McLachlan executed a spectacularly theatrical collapse at this moment, lying in a heap at the bottom of the bass register of the piano, fists and head buried in the keyboard. It wasn’t a stunt, but it was certainly breathtaking.
A fabulous recital, with the Shostakovich garlanded by other splendid and woefully-neglected rarities from Kabalevsky and Myaskovsky. More in three weeks.

Friday, October 20, 2006

New Bartok-Camilleri-Stravinsky 2 Pianos & Percussion Review

A new review of the Dunelm Recording of Stravinsky 'Le Sacre' in its piano duet arrangement, Bartok Sonata for 2 Pianos and Percussion and Charles Camilleri Concerto for " pianos and Percussion

An ingenious, challenging and successful recital, excellently planned and played, bringing us a triptych of works for the chosen ensemble ... Jonathan Woolf
Innovations: Music by Camilleri, Stravinsky and Bartok Charles CAMILLERI (b. 1931) Concerto for Two Pianos and Percussion (2005) [20.59] Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971) The Rite of Spring (1912-13 revised 1947) Reduction for piano duet by the composer. [34.18] Bela BARTOK (1881-1945) Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion (1937) [26.51] Kathryn Page; Murray McLachlan (piano) Heather Corbett; Stephen Burke (percussion) rec. Whiteley Hall, Manchester, 1 Sept 2005, 28 Jan 2006. DDD. Stereo DUNELM RECORDS DRDO258. [2 CDs: 82:11]

This is an ingenious recital, excellently planned and played. It brings us a triptych of works, one canonic for the chosen ensemble – the Bartók – one clothed in unusually spare guise – the Stravinsky – and one new to disc and a wholesome and bracing addition to the repertoire, the Camilleri.
Owing its genesis to the composer’s visit to Chetham’s School of Music in 2004 Camilleri’s Concerto for two pianos and percussion was completed the following year and unveiled in August 2005. This naturally enough is its premiere recording. It’s an exciting, often advanced work, tonal in essence but fully prepared to draw the listener’s – and performers’ – ears into rich new sound-worlds. The percussion adds a veritable Kandinsky of colour or else assumes a rhythmic independence that galvanises the exchanges, dialogues and soliloquies between the instruments. The opening movement visits some jagged, dynamic, explosive figures, though it ends in a kind of speculative, tentative indecision. Strong contrasts are a feature of the concerto and the Bartók was clearly one of the thoroughly absorbed models, both in terms of sound distribution and the level of internal energy generated. The saturnine piano writing contrasts with more reflective material, the percussion adding jazz-based glee – puckish and insolent – that manages to drive the pianos up the keyboard. The finale opens with Mussorgskian catacombs but there’s plenty of powerhouse declamation and dynamism here, a really exciting end to a broad ranging and inventive new work.
The Stravinsky is unusual enough in this two piano reduction to make one listen anew with freshly cleansed ears. The clarity thus revealed brings one closer, perhaps, to the compositional impulses that drove Stravinsky. It can’t replicate, quite obviously, the more primitive dynamism, the remarkable colour or the sheer overwhelming newness of orchestration and rhythm that the orchestral work displays. Nevertheless when played with such incision and verve as here it’s exciting on its own terms. When we hear the Ritual of the Rival Tribes and the Procession of the Sage played with as much energy and pulsating drama as here, we can happily enjoy the whole splendidly realised performance – and savour its relative rarity value as well.
The Bartók has received a number of compelling readings over the years but its necessity in this programme is obvious and very welcome. Kathryn Page and Murray McLachlan convey rather well the quasi-orchestral power of the first movement and the ensemble brings colour and definition to the writing, as well as clear delineation. The shimmering intensity of the central movement builds properly and powerfully, whilst the rhythmic snap of the finale is notable. They don’t overlook the caustically witty ending.
With a spacious but focused recording set-up strands come through with clarity but no hint of coldness. This is a challenging and successful recital. It spreads over onto two discs but is priced as one.
Jonathan Woolf
see also review by David Hackbridge Johnson

Thursday, October 19, 2006

New Wigmore Hall Recital Review

New Internet review of Wigmore Hall Recital on September 10 2006 at 'music on the web':

Seen and Heard Recital Review. Read in full at:

Kabalevsky, Miaskovsky, Shostakovich, Stevenson & Shchedrin: Murray
McLachlan (piano). Wigmore Hall, 10.09. 2006

Murray McLachlan’s recordings for Dunelm have always struck me as a mixed
bag (see here for my reviews of his Busoni and Chisholm) so it was good to
see him live, exceeding all expectations. This programme bristled with
difficulties, none of which seriously stretched him.

The Kabalevsky was the Third Sonata (for excellent recorded versions of
this, try either Werner Haas on a fascinating multi-disc set, or
Moiseiwitsch on a much cheaper Naxos disc). This 1945 work is an ideal
first item as it poses no real difficulties for the listener but is
nevertheless superbly crafted. McLachlan articulated the opening ‘Allegro
con moto’ very well (straight in, no settling at the piano), and just
avoided overloading the notorious Wigmore acoustic. He saw parts of the
first movement as almost Impressionist in conception, and located
late-Liszt-like dark sonorities in the second movement. The circus-like
finale had more than a twang of the slapstick about it.

McLachlan recorded Miaskovsky’s 1942 Song and Rhapsody, Op. 58 for Olympia
(OCD217). Interesting to hear Miaskovsky in context here (he taught
Kabalevsky, and the two were actually living in the same house when Op. 58
was composed!). The Song is very nostalgia-laden (McLachlan projected the
melody well) while the Rhapsody is unpredictable, as every good Rhapsody
should be, shifting hither and thither while flowing naturally all the
while. Fascinating.

It was the inclusion of both of the Shostakovich Sonatas that originally
drew me to this programme. McLachlan laid into the First in no uncertain
fashion (it was uncomfortable even from the very back of the hall). His
agenda was clearly to expose the extremes this work explores (the use of
the left-hand fist certainly added to the visual effect). The dynamic
range utilized was huge (as was the pause after a sequence of low-register
aggregations). Memorable.

The Second Sonata was reserved for the second half. Possibly he was
getting tired, as finger slips were creeping in (the first half was
notable for its accuracy), the work’s angularity was somewhat underplayed
and the slow movement could have looked further inward. It was left to the
finale to remind us of what a fine player McLachlan is. His spinning of
the long unaccompanied line was mesmeric; he brought Handel to mind in the
dotted Variation VIII and he generally had the measure of this movement.

Interesting to compare McLachlan with Donohoe at the QEH in March.
McLachlan made the stronger impression of the two by far (and played from
memory), seeming to travel more often to the heart of this impressive

Preceding this was a work by Ronald Stevenson, the Recitative and Air
(DSCH). Apparently composed on a four-hour long train journey, this is a
work that despite some really peaceful moments and an obvious Bach link
leaves an impression of grayness and anonymity. Much more interesting was
the final item on the programme, Rodion Shchedrin’s Tschastuschki:
Concerto for Piano Solo, ‘Naughty Limericks’. Almost jazz-like and
possessed of unbuttoned virtuosity, this work is a virtuoso exploration of
the irreverent folk-songs of its title. McLachlan seemed particularly
suited to the toccata-like passages, but also reveled in the
Petrushka-like bitonalities and the irreverent vamp-till-ready
accompaniments. Great fun.

This was a memorable, intelligently planned recital – I look forward to
hearing McLachlan live in concert again.

Colin Clarke