On 30 March 2018 SOMM Recordings releases a new recording with pianist Mark Bebbington and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jan Latham-Koenig. The CD includes the Piano Concertos by Grieg and Delius as well as the world premiere of what Grieg left of his incomplete Second Piano Concerto, edited and orchestrated by Robert Matthew-Walker.
Although Grieg’s Second Piano Concerto, commissioned by his new publishers Peters Edition in 1882, was never completed, the approximately 150 bars he sketched hint at what might have been. Following Grieg’s few instrumental indications, Robert Matthew-Walker has orchestrated the complete sketches in the sequence in which they were left, to make a coherent single movement giving, for the first time, the clearest indication of what Grieg had in mind for a work left tantalisingly unfinished. Just three bars have been added to preserve continuity and overall coherence. It receives its premiere recording here.
Mark Bebbington said: “It is fascinating to see and hear what was in Grieg's mind as he embarked on this Second Concerto; certainly the jaunty opening idea shares a similar character to the main Allegro theme of the A minor Concerto's Finale, but elsewhere there are simply tantalising glimpses of what might have been...”
Robert Matthew-Walker said: “Grieg’s Second Piano Concerto remained unfinished, its thematic and harmonic fragments largely unknown until they were published towards the end of the 20th-century. Since then, several composers have written full-scale works based upon Grieg’s material, of which a number have been performed and recorded. But as in each instance around 95% of the finished score is not by Grieg, none can be considered a ‘completion’ of Grieg’s Second Concerto in the sense of Deryck Cooke’s performing version of Mahler’s Tenth Symphony, or Anthony Payne’s elaboration of what Elgar left of his Third Symphony. As Grieg’s Second Concerto is unperformable, it seemed to me that rather than let the music remain on the printed page, it should be perfectly possible to present his sketches in such a way that they can be heard in a manner as close to his sound-world as we can get. The sketches, when placed together in sequence, make a broadly coherent single movement, although it is very unlikely that Grieg intended other than a three-movement work. None the less, in hearing those sketches, one after another, flowing as naturally as they do, the listener is at last able to hear just what was in Grieg’s mind at the time."
Also on the recording and heard together on disc for the first time are the Piano Concertos by Grieg and Delius.
Composed in 1868, Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor has become one of the cornerstones of the repertoire. Its famous opening timpani roll heralds a ravishing display of virtuosity lit up by the melting melody at the heart of an immediately recognisable masterpiece.
Also in a minor key, Delius’s C minor Piano Concerto was inspired by a performance of Grieg’s concerto in London in 1888. Grieg’s gifting of a copy of the score to Delius spurred him on to write his own concerto. It was not easily realised. An initial draft in 1897 - which was played by Busoni – was followed by two further revisions over the next decade before the final version was premiered in London, heard here in a rare appearance on disc.
Completing the disc are Delius’s Three Preludes for solo piano and Peter Warlock’s transcription for piano duet – with Bebbington joined by the young up-and-coming Malaysian pianist Irene Loh – of Delius’s most famous orchestral miniature, On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring.
Composed in 1923 and owing some kinship to the liquid arpeggios of ‘Reflets dans l’eau’ from Debussy’s Images, the delicate nostalgia of the Preludes’ distinctive harmonic language is nonetheless unmistakably Delius’s own. Beautifully faithful to the original, Warlock’s transcription was hugely popular in an age when the parlour piano rather than the television set was the centre of home entertainment.