Tall Poppies


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Romantic Rarities

Ian Holtham - piano

$23   (Australian dollars)


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Ian Holtham is a distinguished Melbourne-based pianist who has a long discography of Classical and Romantic music to his credit, especially including the music of Chopin.
In this, his first release on Tall Poppies, he has chosen a program of relatively rare works from the piano repertoire. In Ianís own words:
ďThe repertoire chosen for the CD is a compilation unique in piano discography and in the history of piano performance. The version of the Schubert unfinished Sonata DV 625 contains completions of the outer movements in which I have had a creative hand and which have never been recorded or performed before. My own interest in commemorative repertoire is enriched through the inclusion of Brahmsí own transcription of the second movement of the string sextet Op. 18, which was a birthday present to Clara Schumann who had expressed fond admiration for the movement in its original string format. The score of this work was only discovered well into the twentieth century. Chopinís Rondo a la Mazurka would be the least known of all this composerís major piano output and similarly Schumannís Davidsbündlertänze, Op 6 is the most significant of all his major piano cycles, but it is also by far the least performed. ď
The recording was made in Melbourne, at the University of Melbourneís Melba Hall by producer/engineer Thomas Grubb.

Theme and Variations in D minor from the String Sextet Op18
SchubertUnfinished Sonata in F Minor DV 625
ChopinRondo à la Mazurka
SchumannDavidsbündlertänze, Op 6


Out on the Tall Poppies label is a collection of relatively unknown works by Brahms, Schubert, Chopin and Schumann performed by respected Australian pianist Ian Holtham on his first album for the label.

Holtham has had some creative input into one of the works, an unfinished sonata by Schubert, which has never been recorded before. The album opens with Brahmsís transcription of the second movement of his string sextet Op 18, made for his great love Clara Schumann.

Robert Schumannís Davidsbundlertanze closes the recording. This work has had to live in the shadow of his more popular piano cycles Kinderszenen and Albumblatter.

The program is rounded off by Chopinís Rondo a la Mazurka. Romantic Rarities (TP219) is a valuable addition to any record collection. It and the Haydn are available for $29.95 at good music stores now.
Steve Moffatt
Manly Daily February 2012

The title Romantic Rarities is an understatement, for these works will surely have never been heard by the vast majority of concertgoers. Despite their exhumation from the musical graveyard, they are full of life and energy with not a whiff of decay.

Ian Holtham has resurrected for us Brahms's Theme and Variations in D Minor from 1860, crafted from the slow movement of the composer's String Sextet Op 18. He transcribed this as a birthday present for Clara Schumann, who features as muse elsewhere in this anthology. These are beautiful and expressive variations, and Ian Holtham on his Steinway gives them rapt expression. A rather more ambitious undertaking is his performance of Schubert's Unfinished Sonata in F Minor. He follows the completion of the outer movements done more than half a century ago for a Universal Edition of Schubert's works, while making certain alterations of his own where needed. The result is seamless, and this completed version is heard here for the first time.

Chopin's Rondo á la Mazurka of 1826 is perhaps so rarely heard only because of his extreme youth when he composed it, but the 16-year¬old shows an assured hand, an already evident imagination and pure charm.

But of all the pieces on disc, it is the Schumann Davidsbundlertanze Op 6 (Dances of the League of David) which most deserve being brought back to the light. This work is romantic, joyful and dramatic in turn, charged with light and shade, and Holtharn's assured pianism is compelling. The recording serves these rare pieces well and the Melba Hall venue in Melbourne lends pellucid clarity to the performance.
Anthony Clarke, Limelight January 2012

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