Sir William Walton Prelude & Fugue: The Spitfire
(1902-1983) (transcr. DON)
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Songs without Words Book VI
Ludwig van Beethoven Sonata in C sharp minor Op. 27 No.2
Sir Edward Elgar Concert Allegro
(1857-1934) (reconstr. DON)
Notes to Promoters
Every item of this programme is uniquely linked to David Owen Norris. His own virtuoso transcription of Walton’s famous Second World War piece, made by special permission of Oxford University Press, has thrilled audiences around the world. Likewise, Norris is the only pianist to play Elgar’s mighty Concert Allegro, composed in 1904, but unpublished in Elgar’s lifetime thanks to a series of musical misunderstandings which left the manuscript covered with alterations, crossings-out and paste-overs. Norris’s recording of his reconstruction of the original version is hailed for its elucidation of the mystery.
Norris has discovered that Mendelssohn used elements of dynamic notation – the crescendo signs sometimes called ‘hairpins’, and the sforzato, for instance – to specify rhetorical alterations of tempo. The discovery has led to a major concert and recording project that’s showing how widespread this completely forgotten practice was, and what a remarkable difference it makes to nineteenth-century piano music. The well-loved Songs without Words provide the perfect sampler of a major breakthrough in performance style.
Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata is almost too familiar, but audiences invariably greet Norris’s performances of the piece with expressions of wonder and amazement. In 2002, Norris provided the music for David Constantine’s BBC Radio 4 play, The Listening Heart, which explored Beethoven’s encroaching deafness, and its effect on his love-affair with Countess Julie Guiccardi, through the medium of the Moonlight Sonata. This context revealed the inner meanings of the work, and its true melodic nature. The resulting emotional range is spell-binding, listeners often remarking that it feels as if they are hearing the work for the first time.