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R. James Tobin
Classical Net, April 2012

The rags, in the tradition of Scott Joplin, rather than that of Jelly Roll Morton, have a crisp rhythmic articulation. The blues are very gently played. Those from 1973 are marked “Extremely slow and quiet,” “Very slow and intense,” “Very quiet and intimate,” and “Slow and sustained.” These markings say it all; this is not to belittle them in any way. They are meditative and satisfying.

The three “Satie Variations” on that composer’s Gnossiennes depart considerably from their models. The first is faster and the second slower than Satie would have it. The third is a very vigorous transformation, with a bass emphasis, that is very different from the spirit of the original. Similarly, “Bach in Blue” departs considerably from the beautiful first prelude in Bach’s “48 Preludes and Fugues.” The Five Diversions are light, and in different styles and moods indicated by clear designations as “Amiable,” “Lyrical” (wonderfully mellow sounding), “Gently jazzy,” “Quiet and dreamy,” “Lively and brash.”

The two long works, separated by ten years, have seven or eight movements each. The “Vitalitas Variations” has conventional tempo designations from “Lento” to “Vivace.” I particularly enjoyed its first “Lento” and the second “Andante.” The sections of “Paraphrase II” are differentiated only by metronome markings from 50 to 132; they are played without pause but are very sharply differentiated in tempo, style and mood, from quiet, limpid and meditative to fast and agitated. As one might expect of a work from 1967 the work includes some “serial workings,” as well as canons, during which can hear clearly the differentiation between the right and left hand playing.

Recommended. © 2012 Classical Net Read complete review

Jed Distler
Gramophone, February 2012

gorgeous harmonies and fresh rhythmic invention [Dickinson] divines throughout his blues-to-boogie revamping of Satie’s Gnossiennes never fail to delight and engage the ear. The same can be said for his slow and spacious Four Piano Blues.

An enjoyable release, highly recommended. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Brian Reinhart
MusicWeb International, November 2011

My colleague John France has already given this disc a warm welcome, and I will now do the same, but for the opposite reasons. JF particularly enjoys Peter Dickinson’s most serious piano music, the Paraphrase II and Vitalitas Variations, and is less fond of the ragtime pastiches and other tribute pieces. I found the rags lovely and enjoyed the jazz fusion of Bach in Blue and the Three Satie Transformations, but felt my patience tested by the Paraphrase and Vitalitas. The moral here is that Dickinson’s versatile piano style has something for everybody.

…worth admiring is the “Patriotic Rag” wittily punning on “God Save the Queen” and “Rule Britannia,” the “Hymn Tune Rag” which is downright sacrilegious in its bustling cheer, and the three Satie Transformations, all importing that composer’s Gnossiennes into the world of blues, the last of them daringly uptempo.

Over 35 years Peter Dickinson’s pianism has clearly not faltered, and he is unflaggingly sensitive to the blues and rag idiom (not to mention his own!).

A more versatile listener than I will likely enjoy all of it, but Peter Dickinson is a composer comfortable in an impressive range of styles and able to play it all. This album is a pleasure. Read complete review

Rob Haskins
American Record Guide, November 2011

Mr Dickinson is a wonderful pianist, and the recordings…sound great.

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Jeremy Nicholas
Classic FM, October 2011

Best of all are Blue Rose and Bach in Blue, a hauntingly lovely treatment of Bach’s C major Prelude No.1 from The Well-Tempered Clavier.  As you would expect, the composer’s playing is immaculate—and he also provides an illuminating booklet; altogether an impressive achievement.

John France
MusicWeb International, July 2011

The Naxos sleeve-notes give a succinct resumé of what this CD is all about:—it is simply a collection of his eccentric and often amusing rags, blues and take-offs. Any danger of taking these works too seriously and trying to ascribe some higher meaning to them is negated by the word ‘take-off’. Pastiche can be a difficult and sometimes dangerous art. It is often used as a pejorative by critics in the manner say that Bloggs has written a pastiche of Delius in the sense of ‘an artistic work in a style that imitates that of another work, artist, or period.’ On the other hand these works are not parodies, which can be defined as ‘an imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect’. Pastiches these works may be, but parodies certainly not.

However, the blurb on this CD is in one sense misleading. There are some very serious pieces of music presented here that demand the listener’s full attention. For example, Paraphrase II began life as a motet and is not really about ragtime, blues or any other popular genre. It is a deeply thought out work that is serious in intent and execution. In the same manner the Vitalitas Variations, which is the earliest piece on the CD is a work that is not immediately approachable. However, this piece is perhaps one of the most important presented here. In fact, it had another life as a ballet score, having been choreographed by the Mexican dancer Gloria Contreras. There is are chamber and orchestral versions of this work in Dickinson’s catalogue. Certainly the Three Satie Transformations, in spite of being billed as a send-up of a composer who sent up Clementi and others, is actually an extremely effective work in its own right that will hardly make ‘Top of the Pops’, but is attractive, rewarding and often moving.

However, I guess that it is the pieces such as Bach in Blue, the Patriotic Rag, the Wild Rose Rag that will get played on Classic FM—assuming that they ‘discover’ this CD. These are all accomplished examples of the art of pastiche. Perfectly done, never over-stated and never ‘knocking’ or destroying the original models. More serious, but equally approachable are the gorgeous Four Blues which are ‘trance-like versions of hymn-tunes. The Five Diversions are a little bit more challenging than the ‘rags’ and are often reflective and introverted but even here the fun and the humour are apparent and lead to a ‘lively and brash ‘ conclusion.

The composer plays all these pieces in a convincing, satisfactory and ultimately enjoyable manner. It is perfectly clear that he is at home as a composer and a performer in this plurality of styles.

As these are mostly ‘World Premiere Recordings’ it is not possible to compare versions. Suffice to say, that virtually any one of these works would make an excellent addition to any concert programme as a main item or perhaps as a novel encore.

This is an excellent CD. However as noted above there is a serious side to what is billed as ‘eccentric and often amusing’. I like virtually every track on this disc. However I could just about manage to get by without the rags and the blues. The Paraphrase and the Vitalitas are much more enduring and demanding works that deserve to be in the repertoire for all time.

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