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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


CD REVIEW
RECORDING OF THE MONTH


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New App by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra for iOS and Android!


BAX Orchestral pieces


CASKEN Violin Concerto

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
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alternatively
CD: Crotchet


John IRELAND (1879-1962)
Piano Concerto in E flat major (1930) [24:50]
Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
Phantasm
for Piano and Orchestra (1931) [26:00]
William WALTON (1902-1983)
Sinfonia Concertante for Orchestra with Piano (original version) (1928)
Kathryn Stott (piano)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Vernon Handley
rec. All Saints’ Church, Tooting Graveney, London, 10-12 July 1989
DUTTON CDLX7223 [70:01]
Experience Classicsonline

An old friend returns wearing new clothes provided by Dutton Epoch. This collection was one of Conifer's most enduring successes. Second-hand copies of CDCF175 still circulate. Now you have no need to scour e-bay or Amazon to experience these three British works of the 1930s.
 
Never mind the dedication of the Walton work to the three Sitwells. The movements are dedicated to: I Osbert; II Edith (she of the Facade poems); and III Sacheverell. Never mind the title: Sinfonia Concertante. This is to all intents and purposes Walton's piano concerto. It is saved for last on the disc and leaves the listener on an emphatic upbeat. This is life-enhancing music - neither precious nor dry. As for the triptych of dedications there is no need to regard this as a sort ‘friends pictured within’ indulgence. The music flies on its own sinew-driven lyrical wings whether syncopated, soughing or startlingly heroic. The first movement is stunning - and its jazzily hip-swaying peroration is glorious. It is topped off with a flurry of strutting confidence. After a touching central movement we come to the joyous finale with its romping euphoria and castanet echoes of Constant Lambert.  The original 1928 orchestration used here is more dense than the version you may be familiar with but the luxury of intricacy has not leached the kick and zest imparted to it by Stott, Handley and the RPO. Wow! It was premiered in this version at the Queen’s Hall in 1928 by the Royal Philharmonic Society. York Bowen was the soloist and Ernest Ansermet, the conductor.
 
Frank Bridge's Phantasm bears the impress of the Second Viennese school. It inhabits the world of the Second Piano trio, the last two string quartets and Oration. The tonality twists in ways that Bridge's Summer and The Sea would never have prepared you for. This work is endlessly fascinating and has its heroic rhetoric (as at 20:10) as well as its pastoral poetry even if the world is one of lichen and ferns rather than bleached fields and sun-lit forests. The recording is powerful - listen to the RPO horns at 24:30 and to Stott's obsidian verve at 24:03. Every detail emerges unmistakably. This is music that is both angry and grimly atmospheric. It joins other fine versions by Peter Wallfisch on Lyrita and Howard Shelley on Chandos.
 
The Ireland Piano Concerto often emerges for me as rather precious; blanched Prokofiev at best. His Legend and Forgotten Rite are so much better. Not so here where Stott, Handley and the RPO give the work a sharply delineated captivating character. This is the most touching and affecting of readings. It steers well clear of the lavender water we sometimes hear when this work is played. I am looking forward to hearing my first live concert reading of this work next Sunday with Mark Bebbington and the Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Ian McRae.
 
The notes for this disc are in English only: the original lyrically-informed essays by Christopher Palmer, a piece by Conifer capo John Kehoe and a fresh Vernon Handley essay by Lewis Foreman.
 
Rob Barnett
 

 


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