I have a soft spot for concertos for unusual combinations.
I trace this back to tangling with Rimsky-Korsakov's concert pieces
for various solo instruments and windband (a Melodiya LP) and to a 1977
BBC broadcast of Gordon Jacob's Rhapsody for Piano and Brass Band (Valerie
Tryon, GUS Band and Geoffrey Brand, 15 July 1977) - a resourceful work
of plunging romanticism - well worth reviving. When this CD was announced
I could not resist.
Bis have cradled two fairly gentle concertos between
two works which offer some challenges to the listener. The first three
works are cello concertos and the disc finishes with a symphony ...
for wind band. The Rosenberg is in six movements, the Larsson Gothe
in five. All save the Ibert are played continuously with no pause between
Among the composer complement
only Larsson Gothe is at all obscure. Written to a commission from this
orchestra, his concerto is a tribute to Lutosławski's cello concerto.
It takes the high A on which the Pole's concerto ends and uses that
as its departure point. Five movements allow Gothe to expound
and explore a ghoul-haunted expressionistic dreamscape. Admirers of
the Cello Symphony by Britten or of the superb Sallinen concerto are
sure to find this to their liking. The half hour work is dedicated to
After the gaunt twentieth century avant-garde-isms
of the Gothe, the Martinů is a celebratory
holiday of a piece even when it delves into pessimistic caprice in the
andante. This is a work from
the Paris years so although certain mannerisms are on show do not expect
the full Martinů article. Stravinsky's gamin jazziness is in
the ascendant. Ibert is altogether more welcoming with pastoral folk
voices. The woodwind emphasise this in perky and lilting 'shepherd pipe'
tones. This is all laced with the tang of popular culture.
The Rosenberg is an opportune cuckoo in this company.
For a start it is not a cello concerto. Termed a ‘symphony’ it takes
the Rosenberg symphonies to the forbidding number nine. It was written
for the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation for a Cullberg ballet The
Tower of Babel and was issued as a symphony shortly afterwards.
This is not the Rosenberg of the 1940s so what you get is as expressionistic
as the Larsson Gothe but in orchestration that is sparer, raucous, scouring,
sardonically militaristic, capricious - rather like a mating between
Nielsen's clarinet concerto, Weill and Herrmann's Rosebud music.
The Gothe is, I feel, a significant work that will
deepen on repeat hearings. The Martinů
and Ibert remain entertaining; the Ibert more so. The Rosenberg is rather
dry and objective but essential to an understanding of his still neglected
Production values, annotation and recording quality
are well up to Bis's usual enviable standards.