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The Virtuoso - Music from the novel by Sonia Orchard
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11: II. Romance (1830) [9:45]
Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra/Walter Goehr
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Kinderscenen (Scenes from Childhood), Op. 15: VII. Traumerei (Reverie) (1838) [2:01]
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54: I. Allegro affettuoso (1845) [15:18]
Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra/Walter Goehr
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Petrarch Sonnet No. 104 from Années de pelerinage: II. Italie S.161 [5:55]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 13: II. Andante semplice (1875) [7:25]
Unnamed orchestra/Walter Goehr
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Sonata for Piano No. 1 in C major, Op. 24: IV. Rondo (Presto) 'Moto perpetuo' (1812) [3:59]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58: III. Rondo (Vivace) (1805-06) [9:39]
Utrecht Symphony Orchestra/Walter Goehr
Arthur BLISS (1891-1975)
Piano Concerto: I. Allegro con brio (1938-39) [16:18]
Utrecht Symphony Orchestra/Walter Goehr
Michael TIPPETT (1905-1998)
The Heart's Assurance: V. Remember your lovers (1950-51) [6:17]
Peter Pears (tenor)
Noël Mewton-Wood (piano) with other performers as above
rec. 1952 except 18 August 1941 (Weber) and c.1950 (Kinderszenen, privately recorded)
ABC CLASSICS 476 3390 [77:18] 
Experience Classicsonline

The pretext for this disc of excerpts from the recorded legacy of the tragically short lived Australian pianist is a novel called The Virtuoso written by Sonia Orchard and published by HarperCollins/Fourth Estate in 2009. Its author heard Mewton-Wood play the Khachaturian Concerto at the London Proms in 1950 and got to know him. She imagined him as ‘a lone explorer venturing into a blizzard’ and saw him playing ‘at the very edge’. The novel - obviously I’m paraphrasing as I haven’t yet read it - evokes post-War London artistic life, with the pianist as its fulcrum. Clearly she explores the emotional and sexual drives that were so much at the root of Mewton-Wood’s life - or, to quote the blurb in the booklet; he was ‘…dashing, gay and notoriously promiscuous’.

But psycho-sexual fictive biography is not what we’re about here. The excerpts are what will interest you and they are there to whet your appetite. ABC has already issued a two CD set of stature which comprises unfilleted performances; so you will find the complete recording of Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto, Kinderszenen, the Weber and the Petrarch Sonnet there. Here, in this tie-in disc, we also have isolated concerto movements culled from complete recordings, generally made in 1952, the year before his death. I reviewed that ABC set and wrote extensively about the pianist and biographical and critical matters can be pursued there.

So this latest disc does at least ring some changes. There’s the first movement of the mighty Bliss Concerto, previously the preserve of Solomon. You can seek it out fully on a British Music Society release where you can also find Stravinsky and Shostakovich (the Bliss is also on Pristine Audio PASC153). The complete Tippett can be found on an album called The Age of Gold (Pearl GEM0227). The Beethoven Concerto is available on Pristine Audio PASC116 for purchase or download (the Shostakovich is also on PASC135), whilst the Chopin is similarly available on PASC114, and the Schumann on PASC149. In fact Pristine Audio is the place to go for most Mewton-Wood. We still await their - or someone else’s - transfer of the Tchaikovsky Op.13 Concerto.

As a sampler this works pretty well. I doubt it would appeal to many readers here, who would be frustrated by the brevity and incompleteness of the music, but then it’s probably aimed more at readers or prospective readers of the novel.

Jonathan Woolf 

 
 


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