The Naxos British piano
concerto series continues to make impressive and audacious headway.
Both works have been recorded before - by Chandos as part of
the Hickox-Alwyn cycle but it is good to have them here logically
harnessed and at bargain price.
the liner-notes the First Concerto
is not neo-classical. It somehow reaches
a treaty between the styles of the
Copland piano concerto, the John Ireland
and even the Bliss. Shostakovich’s
Second Concerto lay in the far future
but Alwyn’s writing seems to grope
towards its energetic youthfulness.
A crepuscular glimmer and tenderness
carries over into the adagio molto
e tranquillo finale; very much
a case of Nights in the gardens of
The work ends without bread and circuses
but on a sustained breath. The recording
quality is impressive - listen at
3:40 in the first movement to those
‘yawning’ French horns.
After a good long pause
comes the uproar of Derby Day. This is music out of the
same clamorous drawer as Alwyn's Fourth Symphony: nervy propulsive,
eldritch, tetchy and in touch with the nightmare visions of
Vaughan Williams in his Pilgrim's Progress and Sixth
Symphony. A more than worthy addition to the genre of the exuberant
British concert overture.
Vaughan Williams' Sixth
is also a wraith in the background of the Second Piano Concerto.
Here is a work that was written for the 1960s Proms to be played
by Cor de Groote. Unfortunately de Groote's health prevented
the performance and the work was forgotten until it was recorded
in the early 1990s by Chandos. Evidently it was written in defiance
of the stylistic norms of the 1960s. Much of it looks towards
Rachmaninov and this is felt at its strongest in the first movement
which is followed by a gracious but almost expressionist andante
where solo lines from the orchestra give the movement a
chamber character. The finale has that grand misty Rachmaninovian
manner heard at zenith at 6:00.
While I reject Naxos's claim
that the First Concerto is neo-classical, the syncopatedly busy
Sonata Alla Toccata is a different matter altogether. Here the
cap fits to perfection.
Superb clean recording
stinting neither on subtlety nor impact.
The cover is graced
with a wonderful primitivist Sussex landscape by James Dickson Innes (1887-1914) - more
The notes are by Andrew
Palmer of the Alwyn Foundation.
This is another illustrious
entry in Naxos's British Piano Concerto series. Let me recommend strongly
that Mr Donohoe and the company look at the piano concertos
of Roger Sacheverell Coke (the English Rachmaninov), the classically-inclined
retrospective concertos of Nottingham-born Walter Thomas Gaze
Cooper and the isolated concertos of Albert Coates and Ruth
Gipps. There's plenty more to come.
This disc is issued
in the 18th year since Naxos began issuing new recordings at bargain price. The label
sells 10 million classical CDs each year and some twenty new
recordings are made by Naxos every month.
For a limited period
this disc comes with a bonus CD which is effectively a sampler
for the Naxos British music catalogue. It contain s eleven complete
movements by Elgar, Britten, RVW, Delius, Bliss, Walton, Holst,
Finzi and Arnold. A make-weight but a welcome piece of
shop window advocacy.
All of these Alwyn
works have been recorded before - largely by Chandos - although
it was Sheila Randall who in 1960 - recorded the Sonata on a
rare mono Lyrita. However in the case of the concertos this
is only the second time they have been recorded. No other disc
couples the two concertos nor gives us the other two works.
see also Review
by Tony Haywood