> Peacock Pie: Jacob - Gibbs - Rootham - Milford - Dring [CSS]: Classical CD Reviews- June2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Gordon JACOB (1895 1984)
Concertino for Piano and Strings (1954)
Cecil Armstrong GIBBS (1889 1960)

Concertino Op.103 (1942)
Peacock Pie (1933)
Cyril ROOTHAM (1875 1938)

Miniature Suite (1921)
Robin MILFORD (1903 1959)

Concertino in E major (1955)
Madeleine DRING (1923 1977)

Festival Scherzo (1951)
Martin Roscoe (piano); Guildhall Strings;
Robert Salter (director)
Recorded: Henry Wood Hall, London, July 2001
HYPERION CDA 67316 [60:14]


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The medium of piano and strings has a kind of domestic intimacy - as if light music, unlike the more serious implied conflicts of the larger Concerto form. The music has its roots in the Concerto Grosso of Handel. In British music of the 20th century there are innumerable short works, light pieces, for this combination. Of these this disc is excitingly representative. There is something entirely characteristic about the medium of string orchestra sound when penetrated by the keyboard line, often in single notes or octaves, that is quite distinct from the true chamber music of piano quartet or quintet.

It is permissible, therefore, to take, as premise, a specifically poetic idea, like 'Peacock Pie' providing a less formal structure, although generally in the convention of three movements. Others are simply entitled 'Concertino' - though this diminutive seldom implies a miniature Concerto with all that that might involve.

Some of the best examples of the genre are on this disc - one can readily think of others -Walter Leigh, Gerald Finzi, Alec Rowley? The doyen of the medium, at least here, is undoubtedly Armstrong Gibbs, represented by his Concertino of 1942, and the Suite 'Peacock Pie' which latter provides the covering title. The earliest, Cyril Rootham's 'Miniature Suite' hints at folk origins, while the latest, Gordon Jacob's Concertino (1954) inhabits, in the words of Lewis Foreman's excellent sleeve notes, "a more hard-edged world". It is nonetheless rewarding to listen to. Perhaps the slightest, and least individual work, is the Milford Concertino.

The two works by Armstrong Gibbs are masterpieces in the medium. He knew well the world of de la Mare and his musical conceptions in the Suite have all the fantasy and magic of the poetry. 'The Sunken Garden' with its shade - de la Mare's mystery was in shade, never in total shadow - recalls mysterious figures like John Mouldy in his cellar, or whoever it is that hides "in the little green orchard". And in the 6/8 'The Ride by Nights' reminiscent of a Rackham drawing, it is easy to picture the cloaked and cowled riders. The Concertino is the largest piece on the disc, and is perhaps the nearest approach to a miniature concerto -serious, even grave in content despite the skipping motif of the opening bars. There are richly romantic moments, the suggestion of "a big tune" -an elegiac central movement with just a hint of Chopin/Tchaikovsky, and a totally unexpected Finale with its light capricious rhythm. Asks Lewis Foreman in the notes "Why don't people whistle any more? " They will after this - I certainly did!

Last but by no means least, the cheeky Festival Scherzo of Madeleine Dring rounds off the proceedings - but not without a warm reminder, in the central essentially English section, of the romantic impulse which all these works share. This record is a delight.

Colin Scott-Sutherland

See also review by Hubert Culot

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