Music in Durham

Guest review: Liz Watford on Parnassius Piano Duo

Guest reviewer Liz Watford of the Durham Amateur Pianists group reviews the Parnassius Piano duo performing at Durham University Music Department.
Parnassius piano duo: Simon Callaghan and Hiro Takenouchi
Parnassius piano duo: Simon Callaghan and Hiro Takenouchi

Parnassius Piano Duo 24th Feb, Durham University Music Society.

Spring is just around the corner and with the new season the number of concerts
seems to increase. For the first time I attended a Durham University Music Society concert and my first experience of a piano duo in recital. This Monday evening concert in the Concert Room at Palace Green was pretty well attended.

Simon Callaghan and Hiro Takenouchi make up the classy Parnassius Piano Duo, in this
concert treating the audience to the following programme:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91): Larghetto & Allegro in E flat [1781]
Percy Sherwood (1866-1939): Sonata for Two Pianos in C minor [1890 rev. 96]
Aaron Copland (1900-1990): El Salón México (arr. Leonard Bernstein) [1932-6]
Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943): Suite No.2 Op.17

I am not normally a big Mozart fan but the Larghetto & Allegro was an excellent,
merry introduction to the evening.

The works of Percy Sherwood make very rare appearances on the concert stage. From
Takenouchi’s brief introduction, it seems highly probable that the Parnassius two
premiered the Sonata this year (indeed, by their counting last night’s concert
marked the 2nd performance of this piece, at least in the UK). Takenouchi referenced
influences including Schubert, Brahms and Richard Strauss but for piece stature one could
also include composers such as Medtner and Alkan. The four-movement work was immense in size, sound and difficulty – imagine a combination of the aforenamed composers
multiplied many many times. A big, bold edge-of-the-seat work with a definite
demented undertone of the macabre. The adagio was delicate (but not pretty) then
growing in strength; I also enjoyed the mad edge to the scherzo: allegro molto. I
wonder if Marc-André Hamelin knows this work… There are very few recordings of any
Sherwood compositions but a brief search did find a Concerto disc by Takenouchi:

After the interval, the concert continued with Bernstein’s arrangement of El Salón
México. The two piano arrangement was really, really fun to hear (and presumably to
play), with sections reminiscent of steel drums and a final jumpy discordant chord.

To finish off the evening, Callaghan and Tanenouchi performed Rachmaninov’s Suite No
2 Op 17, which was indeed a real treat. The first movement was almost proto-jazz and
fitted very well with the preceding Copland; the third movement, romance: andantino
was truly fantastic.

All in all a wonderful evening!

Thank you to Liz for contributing this review. Liz runs the Durham Amateur Pianists Group and blogs at

Guest reviewer Liz Watford of the Durham Amateur Pianists group reviews the Parnassius Piano duo performing at Durham University Music Department.


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