Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Rawsthorne, Donohoe, Yuasa|
Piano Concertos 1 & 2
Listen to Samples
'And God will save the Queen'
DAVID BRYSON | Glossop Derbyshire England | 01/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The ironic last line of the first poem in A Shropshire Lad sprang into my mind as I read the liner-note to this production, which has a strong `I'm Backing Britain' feel to it. This disc has been issued under the auspices of a project called The British Piano Concerto Foundation, and the liner material includes a short but sympathetic and enthusiastic article, by the notable and probably under-appreciated soloist Peter Donohoe, on its aims and aspirations. In general I am completely on his side here, even if he protests a little too much in saying `It is not to exploit a musical "curiosity corner". It is not merely to fill a gap in the "market place"'. I for one would certainly like to hear the piano concerto by Delius a lot more frequently than I get the chance to, and I am grateful indeed that Britten's corresponding work has come back into public awareness through receiving the distinguished countenance of Sviatoslav Richter. I wish the project well in all sincerity, although I could not help recalling the fund-raising dinner for British conductors addressed once by Beecham, at which the great man proclaimed with seeming jingoism `I don't see why we should have all these third-rate foreign conductors in this country'; and when the applause died down he added `Considering we have so many second-rate ones of our own'. To be completely honest, it seems to me that the solo work, orchestral work and (particularly) recorded quality are only just borderline -5*. Nevertheless it also seems to me to be rank ingratitude to all concerned, particularly including Naxos, not to do any little I can to support the venture by first buying the record and second giving it the best rating I can. Whether it counts as a `curiosity corner' or not, there is some very interesting and attractive music here. I have known Rawsthorne's second concerto for 50 years, but the other two works are new to me, and in general I do not hear much of his work in broadcasts or see much of it on concert programmes. It is very much `contemporary' music in the sense that Britten's music is that, although I would not consider it to be of anything like the same stature. The piano writing in the fast movements has a lot of what has been called, at least since Schumann's time, the `toccata' treatment, by that meaning a certain perpetuum-mobile etude style, which is really a downgrading of the term from the rich and varied compositions to which Bach gave the same name. The theme of the finale in the second concerto reflects a specially British musical tradition, now in decline, namely the music hall, and I was surprised to see nothing about that in the liner. The liner also mentions that the work was composed for the Festival of Britain in 1951, but again I was taken aback not to see it noted that it was written specifically for Curzon.I suppose the author of the liner really felt bound to quote the composer's own notes on the second concerto, although I wish he hadn't as they are really a terrible dollop of old waffle featuring statements of the blindingly obvious (`The concerto opens with a melody played on the flute, with a piano accompaniment...'); meaningless condescension (`The third movement has...that nostalgic character so much disliked by the immobile intelligentsia of today, who confuse...'); and plain old programme-note padding (`This tune...provides the basis for an episodic type of composition, and for the fugato coda with which the work closes.'). There is nothing really to criticise about the disc itself, I would not say, and if my word for it counts for anything this is a record well worth recommending to music lovers interested in the lesser-known byways of the 20th century repertory."
An Absolute Delight!
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 06/19/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This disc, from the beginning of an ongoing Naxos series devoted to British piano concertos, features the First and Second Piano Concertos of Alan Rawsthorne (1905-1971). Unfortunately, Rawsthorne isn't terrible well known in the US although I would place him at the very top of the second tier of 20th-c. British composers; in a lifetime of concert-going I've only heard one piece of his performed live, the Symphonic Studies (1939), a marvelous piece that is also available here at Amazon. The First Concerto, composed the same year as the Symphonic Studies, is a total joy. I'm a goner for composers with wit, and in this piece Rawsthorne displays it in his thematic material, orchestration and rhythms: a 20th-century Haydn. In fact, the piece is the epitome of a neo-classic divertimento. The three movements are Capriccio, Chaconne and Tarantella. The terms 'capriccio' and 'tarantella' certain imply a light-heartedness, and they don't disappoint on that score. The Chaconne is based on a wry ground bass and although it's a slow movement - andante con moto - it, too, gets in some witticisms. Peter Donohoe, one of Britain's finest pianists, is superb throughout, both here and in the Second Concerto. And he is given sensitive support by the fine Ulster Orchestra under Takuo Yuasa.The second piece on the disc is a set of variations (or 'Improvisations') on a theme by Rawsthorne's friend, Constant Lambert (another of those high-ranked second-tier composers I mentioned). Rawsthorne had helped orchestrate Lambert's ballet, 'Tiresias,' after his too-early death in 1951, and he became infatuated with the quasi-serial opening theme of that piece. (Don't worry, even though there are some occasional dodecaphonic devices used in the 'Improvisations,' one would never know it without studying the score, or reading the enclosed booklet.) The piece is, again, witty, strikingly orchestrated, charming and attractive. I've been returning to it for several weeks now and it does not pall.Finally, the Second Concerto (also from 1951, and written for the Festival of Britain which had spawned a good deal of worthy music such as Benjamin Frankel's lovely violin concerto recorded not long ago on the cpo label) is a four-movement work. Movement I is an affable Moderato, II a vigorous, sometimes violent Scherzo with lots of pianistic glitter, III a melancholy, almost regretful, Intermezzo marked Adagio semplice with a lighter middle section, and IV a rumbustious Allegro with jazzy rhythms and harmonies as well as Prokofievan harmonic side-slips. The whole thing is a showpiece for both piano and orchestra. In this recording one can almost see the musicians grinning at each other, particularly in the hellbent-for-leather last movement. Bring on some more Rawthorne, Naxos! And keep the British piano concerti coming, too! Off the top of my head I would nominate consideration for those of Rubbra, Britten, Ireland, Foulds, Delius, Alwyn and Tippett. How about it?A hearty recommendation for this release.Review by Scott Morrison"