Ian Hominick is a Canadian pianist who teaches at the University of Mississippi; in the past he has served as an assistant to André Laplante and to the late Earl Wild. His MSR Classics program, Off the Beaten Path, is a solid and outstanding disc made up of keyboard repertoire generally considered outside the mainstream, which he often -- and profitably -- includes in his recital programs and master classes. Hominick also runs an annual Piano Discoveries Music Camp at ole Miss in the summer months for children in grades 7-12 to help guide young pianists toward a more expansive relationship with music-making. Although Hominick's debut CD for Titanic, of music by 19th century keyboard titan Sigismund Thalberg, was well received by critics upon its arrival in 1994, MSR Classics' Off the Beaten Path is the first new recording of Hominick to appear since then, and it is certainly welcome. Much of this repertoire is indeed "off the beaten path," though one might argue that Medtner's Fairy Tale Sonata has been recorded with a fair amount of frequency, along with George Gershwin's Novelette and Sibelius' D flat Romance, which is by far the best-known piece among the 10 Sibelius published as his Op. 24. Nevertheless, it would be hard to draw out such exceptions from the rest of the program; while Fritz Kreisler's Rondino on a Theme of Beethoven is well known as a violin piece, Leopold Godowsky's sparkling piano transcription of it is not particularly famous.
Names like Clementi and Czerny usually strike terror into the hearts of piano students, but it takes a connoisseur to appreciate that in the catalogs of these pedagogue-composers lay great compositions that fully merit revival. Hominick is an expressive player with a great sense of flexibility of tempo and an innate sense of how to project the relative volume of a passage in a way that elucidates the musical text. He's very much at home in this mostly romantic literature, effectively thundering and rolling away in the loud passages of Liszt's solo transcription of his own song Die Lorelei, and a great part of the thrill in listening to Off the Beaten Path is just following the generous and warm thread of the music as it unfolds. It is not unlike listening to Earl Wild, who also favored the Die Lorelei transcription and would have enjoyed this MSR Classics recording a great deal, based on both its program and the fine quality of the playing. It is heartening to know that even though Wild has joined the past that his traditions -- an investigative approach to repertoire, firm yet glowing pianism, and a genuine desire to entertain -- are being carried on by pianists like Hominick; indeed, these pieces seem designed to entrap and engage the interest of the toughest of all audiences: the student pianist. Off the Beaten Path seems the perfect vehicle for a student pianist as something to stretch the mind in addition to the fingers; others fond of the piano should also find this well entertaining. MSR Classics' sound, recorded at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts located in Hominick's bailiwick of Oxford, MS, is a big, grand, and opulent, and though it has a very slight trace of the metallic, this is not at all bothersome.