William Murdoch, Albert Sammons, W. H. Squire    (Pearl 0044)
Item# P0911
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William Murdoch, Albert Sammons, W. H. Squire    (Pearl 0044)
P0911. WILLIAM MURDOCH: Pathétique Sonata #8 in c; Appassionata Sonata #23 in f; w.Albert Sammons & W. H. Squire: Archduke Trio #6 in B-flat (all Beethoven). (England) Pearl 0044, recorded 1926-27. Transfers by Seth B. Winner. - 727031004424


“Audiences and critics around the world acclaimed the originality, musicality and technical security of William Murdoch's performances. The exacting critic W. J. Turner wrote in 1916: 'Even when we get to the best pianists it is rarely, if ever, that we find a combination of exceptional technical mastery with tone-power, delicacy of touch, brilliance, command of colour, sensitiveness of phrasing, variety of feeling, imagination and vital passion. Mr. Murdoch possesses all these qualities to a high degree'.

In 1933 William Murdoch published BRAHMS, a biography and analytical study of all the piano works and pianoforte chamber music. This was followed by CHOPIN: HIS LIFE (1934), which revealed considerable literary flair as well as detailed scholarship.”

“After initial studies at Melbourne University where he was to have read law, Murdoch won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music and moved to London in 1906. After four years of study he made his London début in 1910 and was ready to embark on a career as a touring pianist which took him to South Africa in 1911, followed by Australia and New Zealand during 1912 and 1913. In 1914, having made his first appearances in America and Canada, he volunteered for active service in World War I, but was deemed unfit. Instead, in 1917 he was sent to Scandinavia on artistic propaganda work where, after the war, he made four more tours. It was in London that he made his home and where he formed musical partnerships with chamber instrumentalists of the day, particularly Albert Sammons, Arthur Catterall, Lionel Tertis and W. H. Squire. In 1919 he took part in the first performance of Elgar’s Piano Quintet. From 1930 to 1936 he taught at the Royal Academy of Music in London and at this time published two books, one on Brahms for the centenary year of 1933 and another on the life of Chopin, in 1934. Murdoch was a modest man and never sought the life of a famous virtuoso. His death came at the untimely age of fifty-four.

Most of Murdoch’s records were made for Columbia. He began to record in the acoustic era: encore pieces, movements from trios with Squire and Catterall; also the first commercial recording of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto #3 Op. 37 with Hamilton Harty. Murdoch did not like the recording studio and many of his electrical recordings were made in an empty Wigmore Hall. He felt that one of his best records was of Chopin’s Ballade in A flat Op. 47 and at the time of its release (1928) his touch was compared to that of Vladimir de Pachmann. Murdoch disliked Liszt’s music but admired the man; he did, however, record Liszt’s ‘La Campanella’. He regarded Busoni as the greatest Liszt performer of his day and Rachmaninov as one of the greatest pianists. The major works he recorded for solo piano are by Beethoven, his ‘Pathétique’ and ‘Appassionata’ Sonatas. Murdoch’s performances have fast tempi and tight rhythms and a clarity that he also displays in his Chopin playing. He said that although Beethoven performances needed iron, they should not be merely rugged or rough.

Murdoch is represented on disc by much chamber music and he is perhaps remembered more in this field rather than as a soloist. Successful recordings of the Elgar Violin Sonata and Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata Op. 47 (with Catterall), the Tchaikovsky Trio, and an adaptation of the Mendelssohn c minor Trio all show his sensitivity and affinity for chamber music. In the ‘Archduke’ Trio, where he is joined by Sammons and Squire, we are treated to a genial gathering of friends playing some of their favourite music. Also of note are six ten-inch discs he made of test pieces for the Daily Express National Piano Playing Contests in 1927. Not only does he perform works by John Ireland, York Bowen and Alec Rowley, but he also comments on them."

- Jonathan Summers

“Although scarcely a celebrity outside the United Kingdom, Albert Sammons was regarded by many fellow musicians and critics as the finest violinist ever to have been produced by England. A bold, yet sensuous tone, phrasing that was both virile and freely rhapsodic, and keen musicality all met in a man whose intensity set ablaze many a solo score. In addition, Sammons was an excellent concertmaster for several prominent British orchestras, taking from the experience a mastery of ensemble and interplay. Although Yehudi Menuhin's recording of the Elgar Violin Concerto with the work's composer was a justly famous one, Sammons' recording of the work from three years earlier was finer still. It was for Sammons that Frederick Delius wrote his violin concerto and Sammons premiered the work in 1919. His 1944 recording of that work, remastered and re-released by Naxos in a 2002 coupling with Elgar reveals his full dimension as an artist.

Following a few basic lessons from his father and elder brother, Sammons studied briefly with two Ysaÿe students: Alfredo Fernandez and Frederick Weist-Hill. Urged to hear him at London's Waldorf Hotel in 1909, Thomas Beecham requested the final movement of the Mendelssohn piece and was stunned by the velocity with which Sammons managed the music. He offered him the second seat in his newest orchestra and soon thereafter made him the orchestra's leader. Solo performances with several other orchestras further enhanced Sammons' burgeoning reputation and in 1912, he performed Saint-Saëns' Concerto in b minor before an audience that included King George V and the composer. The New String Quartet, taking its name from Beecham's symphonic ensemble, was formed by Sammons in 1910 and, from that time forward, the violinist became as well known for his chamber performances as for his orchestral leadership.

A distaste for travel abroad undoubtedly kept Sammons from becoming an international figure, but he did play some engagements in both France and Germany. With Australian pianist William Murdoch, he formed a duo sometimes joined by violist Lionel Tertis and cellist Cedric Sharpe. Elgar's Quartet and Piano Quintet were both given their first public performances in 1919 under Sammons' leadership. In addition to the Delius concerto, Sammons premiered Delius' String Quartet and Violin Sonata No. 2 (also written for him), as well as the concerti of George Dyson (1942) and E.J. Moeran (1946). The latter was recorded and represents Sammons' last appearance with an orchestra. By March of 1948, advancing Parkinson's disease had obliged him to retire from the concert stage altogether.

In his final years, Sammons devoted himself to teaching at the Royal College of Music, instructing such students as Hugh Bean and Alan Loveday. A capable composer, Sammons won the Cobbet Prize for his Phantasy Quartet and wrote a number of effective encore pieces for violin and piano. A 1954 benefit given on his behalf at the Royal Albert Hall (attended by Sammons, despite his failing condition) celebrated the life's work of a unique and undeniably great artist.”

- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com