The first volume in
this series was a rather good version
of the Bliss
piano concerto. The Bliss is a leonine
monument to the composerís love affair
with the romantic concerto and with
the inspiration of a great virtuoso
- in that case Moiseiwitsch. Donohoe
was well suited to that work and he
does equally well with the present mix.
The Gerhard is
the work of an émigré
to the UK; a refugee from Francoís Spain.
It is the most dissonant and sombre
of the four works. The Diferencias
middle movement winds through a dark
land. The mood links with the most bleakly
disconsolate music by Shostakovich.
The composerís Spanish voice rings true
and clear even if the waters have turned
grey and the shadows have lengthened.
Donohoe makes of this movement a statement
struck with foreboding: distilled and
potent. The finale makes murderous play
with Chabrierís España.
The concerto was premiered at Aldeburgh
in 1951 by Mewton-Wood and Norman Del
Mar. It has not proved the most popular
of works and there have been very few
broadcasts. The last one I can trace
was by Angela Brownridge (soon to have
her three CD set of the piano works
of Kenneth Leighton issued on Delphian)
with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Jonathan Del Mar in April
Rowley is usually thought of,
if at all, as a writer of didactic pieces
but in fact he wrote a small treasury
of concert works. If this concerto is
anything to go by his more serious pieces
should be thoroughly explored. Itís
a populist romantic piece which manages
to shake off most of the stock gestures.
Framing a pastoral Andante naif are
an emphatically romantic Allegro
ritmico which has that roseate nostalgic
glow familiar from Constant Lambertís
Rio Grande and a final movement
Allegro burlesco. This recalls
the lively syncopated music from Waltonís
Sinfonia Concertante mixed with
Irelandís eager freshness. Warwick Braithwaite
conducted the premiere which was given
by a BBC studio orchestra. The soloist
in 1938 was Franz Weitzmann.
Darntonís three movement Concertino
seems to have been written with one
eye on Bach and another on the sardonic
Prokofiev who also haunts the finale.
The second movement catches the Shostakovich
chill presenting its argument with chiselled
clarity. The buzzing pizzicato and pecked
piano notes announce a grim Mussorgskian
joy. The work was once broadcast on
the BBC Third Programme played by Joseph
Cooper with the Kathleen Riddick conducting
her own orchestra.
gave up writing music in the 1950s.
His Piano Concerto falls into that part
of his music that is more relaxed and
celebratory. The other work in that
category is his Overture for an Occasion.
The music rises in a liltingly Finzian
shimmer in the strings before catching
echoes of both Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov
(No. 3). The Vaughan Williams-like modality
of the central movement also links with
Rachmaninov. This was not unusual -
listen to the Harty and the Stanford
Second as well as to the Moeran Rhapsody
No. 3. Bright-eyed and Howellsian, the
allegro giovale is just that
- jovial and high-spirited - a celebration
of someoneís golden summer. This is
not the Fergusonís first recording.
There is an equally good version on
EMI Classics (Howard Shelley, CLS, Hickox).
That came out in 1986. Before that there
were several broadcasts including one
in which Reginald Paul was the soloist
and the BBC Welsh Orchestra were conducted
by Rae Jenkins.
Andrew Burn contributes
an ideal note giving the fullest background
on each of these works and on their
Donohoe was unaccountably
dropped by EMI after their temporary
infatuation with him in the mid to late
1970s. His set of the Tchaikovsky piano
concertos and Concert Fantasy is especially
strong. You can pick it up on EMI Gemini.
The Donohoe-Barshai recording of the
Tchaikovsky Second Concerto makes you
reassess upwards any views you may have
about it being second-rate. He is certainly
in the company of Petukhov and Cherkassky.
Donohoe can also be heard on Naxos in
two Finzi works for piano and orchestra:
the seraphic Eclogue and the
meditative then exuberantly Waltonian
Grand Fantasia and Fugue.
This series started,
and has continued, very well indeed.
I do hope that Donohoe will surprise
and delight us with a selection of the
piano concertos of Ruth Gipps, Jack
Hawes, R.S. Coke, Sorabji and that fascinating
Ďrecidivistí W.S. Gaze Cooper. Of course
we also need good alternative versions
of Baxís two major works for piano and
orchestra especially Winter Legends.
Plenty of territory to cover.
Four contrasting concertos
for piano with string orchestra. They
are all played with surging elan and
no little poetry. The style is romantic
for the Ferguson and Rowley while the
Gerhard and Darnton are spiced with
more astringent fibre. Enthusiastically