CD Spotlight: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Piano Works by Luke Welch
We’ve taken a journey through Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s orchestral music with an earlier CD Spotlight by Chineke!; this time around, we dive into his piano pieces. Our swimming coach is Canadian pianist Luke Welch. In November 2022, Welch spent two days in a Toronto church recording Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Piano Works, a tribute to this African-British composer who was famous in his day, only to be forgotten after his death. Produced by Welch with the support of the City of Toronto and the Toronto Arts Council Black Arts Project, it is a project that shines a light on lesser-known pieces and amplifies our understanding of Coleridge-Taylor’s musical gifts.
Hailed as the “African Mahler,” Coleridge-Taylor was born in London, the son of a Black African father and a white English mother. His musical talents were spotted early on, and his family arranged for the 15-year-old to begin studies at the Royal College of Music where his teachers would include Charles Villiers Stanford. Post-graduation, he became a professional musician and professor, conducting the Croydon Conservatoire Orchestra and teaching at the Crystal Palace School of Music. He would also tour America and research African music, embracing his heritage, drawing on Negro spirituals and incorporating African rhythms into his compositions. And while the greater world of classical music would forget him, he was not forgotten; Coleridge-Taylor became a major influence on Florence Price, R. Nathaniel Dett, and Harry T. Burleigh, among others.
While multiple releases are available of Coleridge-Taylor’s orchestral music, it is wonderful to have this CD of rare and world-premiere recordings of his solo piano works to add to the catalog. Welch plays with a grace and a sense of ease that draws you in from the first note to the last. It is a gift well worth unwrapping.