Pianist Magazine

At last, I thought, a CD to review that I can play along to. Alas, the children and “inexperienced musicians” that Bartok, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Khachaturian,Webern and Copland had in mind during the writing of these pieces must be a tad more gifted than me. This is a collection of very fine music written for beginners or children. These pieces are then presumably discarded once the fingers are used to keys and velocity. Which is a shame as, lest we forget, “simple” can be, more often than not, quite beautiful.

The opening Bartok pieces are wonderfully nostalgic, yet also stark and thoughtful. This is pretty much the same effect you get with Prokofiev’s Music for Children, Stravinsky’s Les Cinq Doigts and Shostakovich’s Children’s Notebook. However, despite the ‘one-string-guitar’ theme, it is nonetheless highly enjoyable. Like nursery rhymes, there is method in this music – it comments on the human condition as much as any Bruckner symphony, it’s just that it does it in a far more subconscious manner and it takes an adult mind to make the most of this aspect.

Clarke has a nice angle on the pieces which makes them wonderfully reflective. This is a recording to savour when you have little else to do apart from listen and think.

—Stephen Priest