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 Recording of the Week  Richard Farrell

Just over fifty years ago on a country road near Arundel, Sussex, a car unaccountably left the road and hit a tree, killing all three of the vehicle's occupants. One of the passengers in the car was a New Zealander named Richard Farrell who was just starting an amazing career as a concert pianist.

He was just 32 when he died but had already caught the attention of numerous greats, including conductors Sir Thomas Beecham and Eugene Ormandy. And the great pianist Artur Rubinstein declared Farrell, along with himself and William Kapell (who of course also died tragically young), to be "one of only three pianists in the world", a tongue-in-cheek - but nevertheless significant - remark.

Richard Farrell
Richard Farrell

Farrell left behind a small legacy of studio recordings, including five LPs and several EPs all made for the Pye recording company between 1956 and 1958, as well as a number of unissued performances and radio broadcasts. Last year the New Zealand based classical record label Atoll began licensing his recordings from EMI (who now own Pye) in order to allow a much-needed re-evaluation of a truly outstanding pianist.

Volume One came out earlier this year and received the following enthusiastic response from Jeremy Nicholas in Gramophone Magazine:

"What we have here are some of the most beautiful recorded performances of the time bathed in what I can only describe as that warm, intimate piano tone familiar from the LP era now all too often lost to clinical digitisation: the Grieg Concerto (as poetic and full-blooded as they come), the four Brahms Ballades (straight to the top of my personal favourites) and 16 Waltzes (ditto), Grieg's Ballade (perhaps the most convincing version on disc of this awkward, flawed work), nine popular Lyric Pieces (how one wishes there were more) and Liszt's E flat Concerto (a magisterial "first movement", an unusually limpid quasi adagio and a thrilling finale). Buy this release. You'll be richly rewarded.”

Volume Two (like Volume One a 2-disc set) has just been released and gathers together the remainder of the studio recordings: two complete LPs - each of them solo recital discs, one of Brahms and the other of Rachmaninov - plus four EP discs and a number of unissued performances of Chopin's solo piano music.

I have been hugely impressed by the quality of his playing. His technique is superb and his understanding of form and structure excellent, but I think the thing that impresses me the most is his rare ability to play the slow passages slowly (often far slow than what you normally hear), but without ever sounding sentimental nor dull. On the contrary, his playing brings out all the poetry and melancholy of the music. It is movingly contemplative and he is always inventive yet always sounds so natural to the music.

I’ve had a real battle this week trying to decide what sample to give you, as so much of this 2-disc set is so instantly appealing. But in the end I opted for Chopin’s E major Étude from the Op. 10 set which I hope you’ll enjoy below.

On to other more boring - but probably useful - things to remind you: for customers in the UK it is not too late for pre-Christmas delivery on a lot of items. We carry over 10,000 items in stock which are ready for immediate despatch (identified on the website by the “In stock - usually despatched within 1 working day” message) and we’ll go on ordering and despatching tomorrow and Wednesday so even for a lot of non-stock items and later orders there is a good chance of pre-Christmas delivery if you select the ‘courier’ option at checkout.

And of course there is always our Gift Vouchers which you can order any time of day or night (including Christmas day) and have it delivered (by email) within minutes – to anywhere in the world! See here for full details.

Finally, it only remains for me to say thank you for your custom over the past year and to wish you a very Merry Christmas.

Richard Farrell - The Complete Recordings Volume 1

Richard Farrell (piano), The Halle Orchestra, George Weldon

Available Format: 2 CDs