The Irish Piano
For his first solo piano CD, Michael McHale has programmed 19 short works featuring classical and contemporary Irish composers, works influenced by Irish music, plus McHale’s own arrangements of traditional Irish tunes. The stark and spacious mood of the latter works contrasts with motoric, harmonically sophisticated selections such as Philip Hammond’s The Beardless Boy or Ian Wilson’s Sonnenwende. Bax’s Country Tune and Grainger’s Molly on the Shore work quite well back to back, as do Field’s Nocturne No 10 and Barber’s Field-inspired Nocturne, Op 33. The repeated notes in William V Wallace’s Mazurka-étude lean more to Spain than Poland, while the magical textures Donnacha Dennehy achieves in North Circular’s exquisite high-register writing transcend national characteristics. More importantly, all of the music comes to life through the singing sensibility of McHale’s sensitive and polished pianism, captured in a warmly ambient recording. In short, it’s easy to recommend such a highly distinct and imaginatively presented release.