William Mason (1829-1908), member of a notable musical American family--his father was hymn writer, Lowell Mason; his brother a co-founder of the Mason & Hamlin Piano Company; his nephew the better known composer, Daniel Gregory Mason--started out, after extensive training in Europe with Liszt and others, as a touring virtuoso pianist, in the manner of Louis Moreau Gottschalk, but gave it up to settle down in New York as a teacher and chamber musician. He was pianist in the American première of Brahms's b minor Piano Trio, Op. 8, for instance.
This music, all of it charming, is salon music of the highest type. It ranges from his signature piece, 'Silver Spring'--an early piece that is reminiscent of the virtuoso showpieces of Sigismond Thalberg and even borrows Thalberg's 'third hand' feature of having the melody played by the thumbs of both hands while arpeggios and countermelodies swirl above and below the melody--to the more sophisticated later effort, 'Capriccio Fantastico', which foreshadows the later piano specialty pieces of folks like Billy Mayerl ('Marigold') and Zez Confrey ('Kitten on the Keys').
Pianist Kenneth Boulton brings a light touch to these sparkling pieces and is joined by his wife, JoAnne Barry, in the four-hand duet, the aptly named 'Badinage.' The sound is clear and true, product of those master recording producers, Marina and Victor Ledin.
Naxos, in its American Classics series, keeps coming up with music that would otherwise continue languishing on music library shelves and we should be undyingly grateful for their ingenuity in finding and recording these pieces. It's not for nothing that in some circles Naxos' founder and CEO Klaus Heymann is known as 'Santa Klaus.'