Two of Australia’s finest storytellers, actor John Bell and pianist Simon Tedeschi, break new ground with this new recording for ABC Classics, of the great melodrama Enoch Arden – a deeply moving tale of love, loss, redemption and shipwreck, told through spoken word and solo piano. The album, available on CD and as a digital recording will be launched by Bell and Tedeschi on a national tour through June and July.
Enoch Arden depicts, in Tedeschi’s own words, “extremities of emotional pathos in which an everyman is thrust into a maelstrom of betrayal, longing, regret and often, madness.” It is the story of three childhood friends, Enoch Arden, Philip Ray and Annie Lee. Enoch and Annie marry and start a family, but after Enoch is shipwrecked on an island for ten years, Annie agrees to marry Philip – believing Enoch to be dead. When Enoch returns, he learns of Annie and Philip’s relationship, and of their child together, and chooses to live in seclusion, heartbroken for his own fate but blissful in their happiness.
The poem Enoch Arden was published in 1864 while Alfred, Lord Tennyson was Queen Victoria’s Poet Laureate; Strauss wrote a piano score to accompany its recitation in 1897. Its most famous recording was a limited-edition release by Glenn Gould with Claude Rains in 1962. This new recording presents a rare insight into the pathos of Enoch Arden’s story, an exploration of humanity just as relevant in 2017 as when it was first written.
Recorded May 2017 in the Eugene Goossens Hall, ABC Ultimo, this album is the first collaboration between Tedeschi and Bell. “I wanted to do Enoch,” says John Bell, “because I love working with musicians; I love being up close and watching their technique and feeling the visceral presence of the instruments. I’ve admired Simon for a long time; he’s a bit of an entertainer and showman as well as being a great pianist.”
On this album, Enoch Arden is paired with the evocative Songs of Dawn (Gesänge der Frühe) for solo piano by Robert Schumann. Written in 1853, towards the end of the composer’s tragic life, the five songs are, Tedeschi notes, “devotional one minute, white-hot the next, and then heartbreakingly lyrical, ending with a hymn-like movement that, to me, is as palpable a winding-down of the human spirit as Beethoven’s last Piano Sonata.”
John Bell is one of our generation’s foremost actors, particularly renowned for his performances of Shakespeare and for founding the Bell Shakespeare company. He was named one of Australia’s National Living Treasures in 1997. Simon Tedeschi’s solo and concerto performances have seen him hailed by critics worldwide, including as “true greatness” by the Sydney Morning Herald.
The tracks: RICHARD STRAUSS :1–8 Enoch Arden, Poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson/ ROBERT SCHUMANN: 9–13 Songs of Dawn (Gesänge der Frühe)
John Bell narrator [1-8]/ Simon Tedeschi piano
Sydney tour date:
Sun July 9, 3pm at Utzon Music Series, Sydney Opera House (NSW)