BOWEN: Piano Concerto No. 3 in G minor (Fantasia). Piano Concerto No.
4 in A mninor, Op. 88.
TANEYEV: Suite de Concert, Op. 28. RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Fantasy
on Russian Themes, Op. 33.
McCABE: Concerto for Orchestra. The Chagall Windows. ARNOLD: Philharmonic
ROSLAVETS: Violin Concerto No. 1. Violin Concerto No. 2.
Hyperion's series The Romantic Piano Concerto strikes gold with Volume 46 which offers two piano concertos by British composer York Bowen (1884-1961). Only recently has there been a welcome revival of interest in Bowen's music. A leading virtuoso of his time, in 1925 he made the first commercial recording of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4, using his own cadenzas. The two piano concertos featured on Hyperion's CD are spectacular showpieces as one would expect from a composer who had the technique to perform them, and their neglect on the concert stage is difficult to understand. Bowen has an unending supply of tunes, and you'll hear traces of Rachmaninoff, Impressionist composers as well, and the soloist always has much of interest to say. Concerto No. 3, premiered at a Prom Concert in 1908 with the composer as soloist, is called "Fantasia," and consists of three connected sections. Concerto No. 4 was premiered at a BBC broadcast in 1937, again with the composer as soloist, with Sir Adrian Boult on the podium. Unfortunately, few heard it. and it wasn't played again until a Prom Concert September 4, 1959, a concert to honor the composer. Bowen, now 75, was soloist, with the Royal Philharmonic directed by Basil Cameron. Surprising for a virtuoso concerto, the work ends softly and enigmatically. Sorabji stated Concerto No. 4 was the greatest work for piano and orchestra ever written by an Englishman and it easy to understand his admiration of the work. Young British pianist Danny Driver is the superb soloist on Hyperion's new disk with strong support from Brabbins and the excellent orchestra. Audio is first-rate, and I look forward to Driver's forthcoming recordings of Bowen's complete piano sonatas.
Although composed in the same period as Scheherazade (1888) and Russian Easter Overture (1887-88), Rimsky-Korsakov's Fantasy on Russian Themes for violin and orchestra is hardly of their stature. It's a 17-minute work with three movements that has never gained prominence on the concert scene and has had few recordings (although both Perlman and Milstein each made one). Rimsky-Korsakov obviously enjoyed writing for solo violin, shortly after writing the Fantasy, he composed Capriccio espagnol, that started life as a violin concerto. The brilliant violinist Lydia Mordkovich does what can be done for music, but she has much more to work with in Taneyev's delightful Concert Suite, Op. 28, written in 1908-09, the composer's only work for solo violin and orchestra. Tanayev was much influenced by his friend Tchaikovsky (he played the solo part in the premieres of all of Tchaikovsky's works for piano and orchestra), The Concert Suite is quite long (47:13), and includes a prelude, gavotte, a theme with variations and ends with a sparkling tarantella. As usual with Chandos, sonic quality is first-rate.
Chalk up another winner for the London Philharmonic in their own series of concert recordings. Three major premieres are featured on this recent release: the world premieres of McCabe's Concerto for Orchestra (Feb. 10, 1983) and Malcolm Arnold's Philharmonic Concerto (Oct. 31, 1976), and the London premiere of McCabe's The Chagall Windows (Nov. 30, 1975). All are BBC recordings made in Royal Festival Hall. Sir George Solti conducted the Concerto for Orchestra, Bernard Haitink the others. All of this music displays the virtuosity of the LPO, particularly the Arnold which they commissioned in 1976 from their former (3 decades earlier) first trumpet. I've been a fan of McCabe's music ever since I heard the EMI recording (no longer available) of Chagall Windows made about the time of the premiere with James Loughran and the Hallé Orchestra that had commissioned the work. Excellent, well-balanced sound from the BBC engineers. A major historic release.
Nicolay Roslavets (1881-1944) is another Russian composer whose music was suppressed—and sometimes destroyed—by the Soviet authorities. Called an enemy of the people in 1929, the following year he was was publicly denounced. After this he held minor musical posts (including training military band leaders) but continued composing although there were few performances. After a major stroke in 1940, he died four years later. Now, more than three-quarters of a century over its composition, his music is recognized for its originality and, thanks to Hyperion, much of it is being recorded in first-class performances. One of these is this disk that contains Roslavets' two violin concertos neither of which has a particularly "Russian" sound. The first, composed in 1925, is a major work of almost 39 minute duration, was first performed in 1929 in an arrangement for violin and piano. The distinguished composer Edison Denison feels this concerto is the most important for the instrument since Alban Berg's. The full score disappeared and only in 1989 was discovered in Moscow archives and that year the orchestrated version had its premiere. With its rich orchestral sonorities, the concerto often sounds as if it could have been written by Szymanowski. Concerto No. 2, composed in 1936, is a lesser work, not performed until January 2008 when this recording was made. These are major concertos for the violin and both are played magnificently by the young violinist Alina Ibragimova with firm support from the first-class orchestra and conductor Ilan Volkov, who can be heard on several other Hyperion releases of works of this major composer. Excellent sound from Hyperion's engineers.
R.E.B. (January 2009)