MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download: Classicsonline

Alec ROWLEY (1892-1958)
Concerto in D major for Piano, Strings and Percussion op.49 (1938) [15:10]
Christian DARNTON (1905-1981)
Concerto in C for Piano and String Orchestra (1948) [16:35]
Roberto GERHARD (1896-1970)
Concerto for Piano and Strings (1951) [22:17]
Howard FERGUSON (1908-1999)
Concerto for Piano and String Orchestra op.12 (1951) [24:10]
 Peter Donohoe (piano, conductor)
Northern Sinfonia
rec. 25-27 November 2003, Jubilee Hall, Gosforth, UK
 NAXOS 8.557290 [78:12]
Experience Classicsonline

I don't know how many schoolchildren have Alec Rowley dished out to them for their daily piano practice these days. Always supposing there are isolated pockets of cultural backwater where schoolchildren still learn the piano at all. He was still present, but on the way out, in my young days, but he certainly wrote a vast amount of teaching pieces, from the most elementary levels to the upper grades, and a pretty vast amount of recital stuff that he often played himself. Aside from this he wrote much vocal and organ music and some for orchestra. His music belongs now to childhood memories, as far off as Jemima Puddleduck or the Roly-Poly Pudding, with its often whimsical titles. "Witchery (to a winsome little maiden)" op.29 - a very pretty little piece, by the way - reminds us that he regularly got besotted by his female pupils. One of those who actually married him got such a crushing delusion that she would not have his name mentioned in her presence even thirty years after his death.
Even these little miniatures, delightful and sometimes touching as they often are, raise doubts as to his ability to put a larger work together. The ideas are short-breathed and even on a small scale the only way forward he can manage is often to repeat his tune in a suddenly unrelated key. These doubts appear justified in the present Concerto which presents one idea after another - some rather nice, some banal, some just noisy - without discernable logic. The listener will not get bored since new ideas spring up like mushrooms, some bearing the promise of better things to come, but he will hardly find deep satisfaction either.
Christian Darnton was barely even a name to me. Andrew Burn's notes acknowledge Dr. Andrew Plant, author of a thesis on Darnton, as his source of information. I learn from them that Darnton started out as a modernist but embraced communism during the war and adopted a style intended to appeal more directly to the people. No doubt it was his political views that had him out in the cold, leading to a compositional silence of twenty years. We don't have a Politburo in the UK but "we have our ways". The present Concertino got its first performance in South Africa. In his last decade he abandoned communism and composed a number of further works.
After a strident opening, what Andrew Burn describes as the "languid elegance" of the opening theme promises a work of some stature in a style vaguely reminiscent of Shostakovich. Though he tends to take refuge in noise both here and in the last movement there is a good deal more sense of purpose to this work than to Rowley's. And I was genuinely taken with the middle movement. In a sense the material is just scurrying scales against a chugging accompaniment, but it takes an original mind to say something new with such basic material. This Concertino, by the way, might make a very effective ballet score.
Roberto Gerhard has his place here on the basis of his naturalization papers - he reached England in 1939 as a refugee from Franco's Spain. All the same, I can no more think of him as British than I can think of Rachmaninov, Stravinsky or Schoenberg as American. His music in this Concerto has a passionate, burning intensity that seems authentically Spanish. By turns visionary, brooding and exultant, this piece has a fiendishly complex sound-world that nevertheless remains luminous and speaks to the listener with clarity. It must have sounded awfully modern when Mewton-Wood premičred it in 1951 yet if you were to play Falla's "Noches", his Harpsichord Concerto and this Concerto by Gerhard one after the other - who will be the first to try this on disc? - it would form a logical progression. The Concerto may enter the repertoire yet. It certainly deserves to. Incidentally, the Naxos inlay gives the date of composition as 1961 while the notes give the first performance as stated above. In view of Mewton-Wood's tragically early death - and of the fact that it doesn't sound like 1960s Gerhard - I take it the correct composition date is 1951.
Howard Ferguson's Concerto is one of his later works before his withdrawal from composition, feeling he had nothing more to say. His uncertainty is understandable. This piece veers between a neo-classicism that looks to Mozart rather than to the more usual baroque, mingling it with music of a Finzi-like poignancy. It is all very attractive but the composer's voice seems unfocussed. A clue comes about two-thirds through the second movement when a lyrical theme emerges that is as Irish as they come. Ferguson, it emerges, was really a misty-eyed, nostalgic Irishman who wanted to write like Stanford but didn't dare given the musical climate of his day. The finale has its Irish touches, too.
If the masterpiece here is the Gerhard, the disc gives us plenty to think about. All four concertos benefit from a level of playing we can't always take for granted in fringe repertoire. In spite of the illustrious precedent of John Ogdon, winners of the Moscow Tchaikovsky Competition more often than not travel the world with a repertoire that will go into a single small suitcase. Or do they? In 1975 or thereabouts I heard a recital by cellist Moray Walsh in which he gave a trial run of the repertoire he was taking to the Tchaikovsky Competition that year. Apart from the normal core repertoire there was a "Competition Piece" specially composed by some official Soviet composer. It was actually a bit like Alec Rowley.
Christopher Howell

see also reviews by Rob Barnett and John France

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.