In his own insightful notes to the impressively varied Piano Music of Jack Gallagher (Centaur CRC 3522) (www.centaurrecords.com ) the composer returns more than once to the word “affability” to describe several of the seven compositions that felicitously occupy the album’s 22 tracks. But, beyond the forthcoming geniality and melodic variety that Gallagher’s music possesses, his compositions reveal an artistry and technical knowledge of the tools of the composer’s trade far beyond those of a mere tunesmith.
In spite of writing in an unabashedly Romantic vein, Gallagher composes music that never lapses into predictability. And, without any academic posturing, this gifted artist fully commands the severe structural challenges of the various forms he adopts.
In Sonata for Piano (1973/2005) the composer makes his work both demanding and rewarding in all three movements, especially in the fiercely challenging closing Allegro.
In Evening Music he adopts a nocturnal tone where moody melody predominates above all else.
In Sonatina for Piano, Gallagher uses the Classical sonata form, as he does in the opening tracks, but this time scaled down in scope and duration, though not in its enticing technical hurdles, as in the final Vivo.
Again and again, the works are dedicated to friends both living and departed, to family, to births, to birthdays, imbuing the compositions with intense sentiment that nevertheless retains elegance throughout, never lapsing into banality or sentimentality.
Six Bagatelles is charming, mercurial in its moods, unpretentious and inventive in its adaptation of Baroque forms.
Pastorale is a brief and bucolic homage to Maurice Ravel, filled with unpredictable harmonies.
Six Pieces for Kelly is designed for young performers, albeit for youngsters with significant pianistic skills, as it cleverly mines for rhythms from everywhere from Scotland to the Balkans.
Malambo takes the Argentine country dance form that juxtaposes diverse driving rhythms, giving the pianist a workout and the recording a possible big finish. However, the composer prefers to end the CD with the quietly gentle, Happy Birthday, April.
Frank Huang is the protean pianist in the recording. His playing is remarkable throughout, rock solid in the daunting Allegro of the Sonata for Piano with its crisscrossing octaves, most impressive in the no-holds-barred approach to the daunting Malambo, and gentle of touch in the many lyrical passages in Nocturne and Pastorale.
The CD is well-packaged, replete with program notes and impeccably engineered by Joshua Sauvageau. More about the artists may be read in www.crossovermedia.net , in www.jackgallaghermusic.com and in www.frankhuangpiano.com
Rafael de Acha