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Alan RAWSTHORNE (1905-1971)
Piano Concerto No. 1 (1939, rev. 1942) [18:26]
Piano Concerto No. 2 (1951) [26:57]
Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra (1968) [17:06]
Geoffrey Tozer (piano), Tamara Anna Cisłowska (piano)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Matthias Bamert
rec. 1-2 August 1992, Goldsmith’s College, New Cross, London. DDD
Experience Classicsonline

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 ending.

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.

Em Marshall

see also Review by Brian Wilson



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