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
, 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,
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
but the 2007 Cello Concerto A Song for Chris
Tangy and often rhythmically ingenious exciting concertos.