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Andrew BISHOP
Crooning (1997) [8.58]
Allen SHAWN (b.1948)

Piano Concerto (1999) [25.48]
Paul CRESTON (1906-1985)

Dance Overture (1954) [11.42]
Benjamin LEES (b.1924)

Piano Concerto No. 2 (1968) [27.30]
Ian Hobson (piano)
Ursula Oppens (piano)
Albany Symphony Orchestra/David Alan Miller
rec. 1999, Tory Savings Bank Hall. DDD
ALBANY TROY 441 [73.55]


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Bishop studied at Michigan and Wichita universities. His composition tutors include William Bolcom, Evan Chambers and Michael Daugherty. He has played as saxophonist with Ray Charles, the Nelson Riddle Orchestra and Manhattan Transfer. Crooning tumbles with impressions: ziegeunerisch; hiccupping background music, popular American songs of 1940s and 1950s; the Bartók of the Concerto for Orchestra. When the French Horns are heard high and wild over the threshing colours of the orchestra the listener is reminded of the fruitily voluptuous of carolling of the horns in Nielsen 5. A richly kaleidoscopic piece.

Shawn was bon in New York City and studied with Earl Kim and Leon Kirchner. He spent two years in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and at Columbia with Jack Beeson. Much of his music is for chamber ensemble or solo piano (the latter included on an Albany CD). There are seven orchesral works and a couple of operars written with his borther Wallace Shawn.

Shawn's 25 minute Piano Concerto was largely written at the Yaddo settlement. It owes much to the support of composer Tobias Picker and to the pianist here, Ursula Opens. Oppens is the dedicatee. The style is a sort of cross between Prokofiev and Rawsthorne; often tangily energetic, neo-classically athletic and rhythmically alive. The tranquillo third movement is dreamily dissonant. It is a work cut from a very different cloth than the Bishop.

The Creston Dance Overture was written in 1954 for the National Federation of Music Clubs and premiered by John Bitter drecting the Miami Symphony on 24 April 1955. Creston is renowned for the influence of Dance on all his music. Here the overture gives ideal rein to his tendency and places it in much the same bracing countryside as Copland's Outdoor Overture, Moean's Overture to a Masque, Bernstein's Candide Overture and Mathias's Dance Overture. It is given a cracking performance by the Albany Symphony.

This mixed recital ends with Lees' Second Piano Concerto which is played by Wolverhampton-born Ian Hobson (who has recorded an Albany CD of Lees' music for solo piano). This is a work not all that far distant from the Allen Shawn concerto. Ragged and raging tendencies are on display. It is busy but does not for me plumb any great depths unlike the Lees' Violin Concerto and Horn Concerto. It was premiered in Boston on 15 March 1968.

Two tangily dynamic piano concertos matched up with two romantically inclined shorter works. The Bishop and Creston pieces are instantly attractive pieces and the former will yield up more with repeated hearings.

Rob Barnett

 



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