The first thing to say is that I was amazed to discover that Valerie Tryon
will be celebrating her 80th
birthday in the week in which this
review is being written. Ms Tryon was born in Portsmouth, on England’s South
Coast on 5 September 1934. Readers might be interested in seeing the video
of Melanie Spanswick interviewing Ms Tryon when she was in the UK to record
this album as a follow-up to her first SOMM anthology
. In the interview, and by the way
the attractive Ms Tryon looks so
young, she is relaxed and
good-humoured; she explains her technique and I was impressed with her vital
yet subtle and penetrating performances of all three works. What a
psychological shot in the arm for us more mature folk.
Rachmaninov’s 1917 revisions to his First Piano Concerto were made some
eight years after he composed his Third Piano Concerto and three years after
he started work on his Fourth (1914-26 rev. 1941). His mature yet still very
accessible style shows in this lovely work – why it has not achieved the
great popularity of the Second and even the Third Concertos is, to me, quite
inexplicable. Ms Tryon’s reading is hearty and heart-felt. Van Steen’s
accompaniment is a little too close and a tad over-bright.
Richard Strauss composed his six concertos in two groups of three; one at
the beginning and the other at the end of his life when his operatic works
were more difficult to stage after allied bombing had destroyed so many
German opera houses. Burleske
belonged to the first group and
Strauss began its composition in the last year of Liszt’s life which is
significant because this is no formal concerto but more rhapsodic in the
pattern of a Liszt symphonic poem. Although Strauss never admitted to there
being a programme behind this music, as Robert Matthew-Walker suggests, it
does not take much imagination — certainly from the descriptive title — that
a drama – perhaps something like Till Eulenspiegel
- might have
been a stimulus. There is wit and parody in abundance and romance and drama.
Both soloist and orchestra revel in this wry, hedonistic ride.
There is something of this mood in one or two of the clever, popular
Dohnányi Variations that complete this album. What a dazzling, tuneful work
this is. That pompous overwhelming orchestral peroration that is the
leads to the oh-so-innocent declaration of
the Twinkle, Twinkle
theme. All the Variations are marvellous
especially: the lovely Brahmsian string Variation 3, the quaint music-box
like Variation 5, the glittering waltz that is Variation 7 and that majestic
Passacaglia Variation 10.
As enjoyable as this CD is I have to favour the 1970 Decca recording of
Rachmaninov’s First Piano Concerto by Ashkenazy with the London Symphony
Orchestra conducted by André Previn. This is now available with the other
three Rachmaninov piano concertos by the same artists on a Decca 2CD. As for
the Dohnányi Variations
, a good and adventurous alternative is the
) recording devoted to music by this composer. It includes the
played with great wit and panache by Howard Shelley and
the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Matthias Bamert.
A most enjoyable album.
Masterwork Index: Rachmaninov
piano concerto 1