The epic romantic piano sonata of a contemporary of York Bowen

Dale Piano Sonata, Night Fancies, Prunella

Bowen Miniature Suite, Op 14

Hyperion CDA67827 (65' DDD)

Here is a disc to warm the hearts and minds of those who treasure romantic nostalgia, a love "for old, unhappy, far-off things, / And battles long ago". Benjamin Dale's hugely ambitious and unwieldy Piano Sonata (its first complete performance given by York Bowen) is assuredly not for lovers of economy, for the steely, prickly and uningratiating.

And while it is hard to imagine its survival in today's musical climate, that is, as Danny Driver so eloquently shows, surely our loss. Dedicated to Bowen (whose work suffered a similarly swift demise before its recent glamorous revival), the sonata's early champions included Moiseiwitsch, Myra Hess, Irene Scharrer and Moura Lympany (all three ladies students of Tobias Matthay).

Yet, even given such celebrity, it is doubtful that it has ever been played with a more shining committment than by Danny Driver. His performance ranges from thundering rhetoric to a whispering sense of poetic delicacy and when you hear him, say, in Variation 2 from the slow movement, you become enthralled by a pianist of such magical warmth and finesse. Prunella takes us from romantic epic to endearing miniature and, in a further tribute to York Bowen, Driver ends his recital with the Miniature Suite in C, Op 14, its scherzo an exit of whirling virtuoso gaiety.

Hyperion's sound and presentation are as immaculate as ever and Francis Pott's notes, where he tells us of Dale's outward similarity but subtle difference to Bowen, is a mine of information. This issue is as moving as it is superlative.

Bryce Morrison, Gramophone
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