Fanfare

The short-lived Hamish McCunn offers perhaps the sweetest music here; his Six Scotch Dances are folk music as it was imagined in the Victorian drawing room, all idealized jollity and gather-we-round-the-fire stuff, but for his Valse the boots have been replaced by elegant evening wear. The music of Sir Alexander Mackenzie is indebted to some fairly obvious Romantic models, as McLachlan’s well-informed notes point out, but despite its lack of individuality, it’s beautifully made for the instrument and effortlessly melodic – in a word, it’s lovely. Sir John McEwen was made of tougher stuff. Though there is a clear French influence at work here, the tightness, the control of the material, even in some of the explicitly lighter pieces, make it plain that McEwen was his own man. It sounds as if McLachlan is playing a piano from around 1900 or so; that would fit the period of the music of course, although the recording gives the instrument rather too much spatial perspective. The cover….is a corny touch on an otherwise imaginative and intriguing CD. There’s nothing here to shake the soul, maybe, but plenty to divert the ear. Recommended.

—Martin Anderson