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CD: Crotchet
Download: Classicsonline

Edward GREGSON (b.1945)
Trumpet Concerto (1983) [23:03]
Concerto for Piano and Wind Homages (1995, rev. 1997) [19:03]
Saxophone Concerto (2006) [24:00]
Ole Edvard Antonsen (trumpet); Nobuya Sugawa (saxophone); Nelson Goerner (piano)
BBC Philharmonic/Clark Rundell
rec. 11-12 September 2007, Studio 7, New Broadcasting House, Manchester. DDD
recording premieres
CHANDOS CHAN10478 [66:27]
Experience Classicsonline

Gregson was a pupil of Alan Bush and studied at the Royal Academy 1963-67. He has been Principal of the Royal Northern College of Music since 1996. Writing solely to commission since he left the Academy his work has spanned the concert hall and incidental music for theatre, film and TV. 

The Trumpet Concerto combines the angst-ridden and onrushing urgency of Bartók with the whimsical poetry of Vaughan Williams. It was written for James Watson as a commission by Howard Snell and his Wren Orchestra. Despatched with aggressive relish Antonsen its finale has an irresistibly casual triumph at 1:09. The work closes with a Waltonian flourish.

The Piano Concerto with wind orchestra is dynamic and also affecting. It was written for and premiered by the great composer and fine pianist John McCabe. Like Gregson’s other two concertos it is a compact work in three movements with a gutsily rhythmic and jazzily driven character. In parts reminiscent of Walton's Sinfonia Concertante and Lambert's Rio Grande, at other times it has the pounding aggression of the Mennin Piano Concerto and the momentum of the Stravinsky Concerto for piano and wind. The Stravinsky was in fact the source of Gregson's inspiration. The cool episodic nostalgic strand at 7:00 onwards in the first movement is of memorable fibre and prepares the ground for the similarly delectable central movement. Rhythmic and predatory grit returns for the pounding finale which must surely have been influenced by Bernstein and perhaps by Copland's El salon Mexico.

I have always been partial to saxophone concertos and the sound of the saxophone in orchestral works whether it is the Glazunov or Nyman or the presence of the instrument(s) in RVW9 or the Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances. Gregson's wild, woolly and even angry Saxophone Concerto is here featured under the advocacy of Sugawa's very Gallic and reedy-sounding instrument. The score spans many moods including a lairy broad humour and a ballsy wailing ‘new jazz’ dissonance. It includes quite a few passages where dissonance is freely deployed; this is most striking in the quiet segments of the central movement. The sentimentality of the instrument is played up to alongside its ability to goad and sprint. The final pages are irresistibly celebratory - an eruption of exuberant joy.

This is not Gregson's first Chandos disc. His Blazon, Violin Concerto (Olivier Charlier), Clarinet Concerto (Michael Collins) and Stepping Out are on CHAN10105. Gregson's Tuba Concerto (with a brief salute to the Vaughan Williams Concerto) and Horn Concerto are on CHAN 4526 with the Gordon Langford’s Cornet Rhapsody in a recital of concertos with brass band - in that case with the Besses o' th' Barn conducted by band stalwart Roy Newsome. In that case James Watson (dedicatee of the Gregson Trumpet Concerto) was the cornet soloist in the Langford. He was joined on that disc by that prince among horn-players, Ifor James and regal tuba player John Fletcher whose 1971 recording of the RVW concerto with Previn still takes some beating. The orchestral version of the Tuba Concerto is on Naxos.

Gregson's Concerto for Orchestra is on a ClassicO disc but the 2007 Cello Concerto A Song for Chris awaits its first recording.

Tangy and often rhythmically ingenious exciting concertos.

Rob Barnett


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