Alan Rawsthorne is a regrettably under-rated composer of great
individuality and craftsmanship. He has that trait of greatness
in a composer – an instantaneously recognisable ‘voice’. Any further
disc of his music is a welcome addition, and particularly this
one from Chandos, with these splendid performances.
The disc opens with
the first piano concerto, which was composed in 1939 for piano,
strings and percussion, and later re-scored for full orchestra
in 1942. It is an excellent work, with its opening movement Capriccio
full of energy – here given an effervescent performance by
Geoffrey Tozer, accompanied by the London Philharmonic Orchestra
under the assured direction of Matthias Bamert. The second movement
Chaconne has a curious combination of quirkiness and beauty,
and the final movement is a Tarantella, which Bambert invests
with a great sense of rhythmic drive, and a brilliantly whimsical
The second concerto
dates from 1951, and was written for, and first performed by Clifford
Curzon at the Festival of Britain at the Royal Festival Hall.
Tozer and Bamert are excellent ambassadors for this music, good
at capturing Rawsthorne’s quicksilver moods, from intense, introspective
and searching, through to extrovert and ostentatious. We again
have a very assured and confident performance – lively and vibrant,
with a questing third movement Adagio semplice and a flamboyant
and exhilarating Allegro finale.
The disc concludes
with the concerto for two pianos and orchestra, composed three
years before Rawsthorne’s death in 1968, for John Ogdon and his
wife. They gave the premiere performance the same year at the
Proms. This is a more reflective and introverted piece, and Bamert
and Tozer bring a good searching and contemplative quality to
the music. The rather discordant second movement Adagio ma
non troppo is quite harrowing here, and yet the enigmatic
last movement Theme and Variations ends in a blaze of triumph.
The musicians all
clearly relished the considerable challenges of this wonderful
music, in sparkling and exuberant performances.
see also Review
by Brian Wilson