Edward Gregson – A Song for Chris and other orchestral works [BBC Concert Orchestra/Tovey; Chandos]

0 of 5 stars

Music for Chamber Orchestra
Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra
Two Pictures for String Orchestra [Goddess; Stepping Out]
A Song for Chris – Concerto for Cello and Chamber Orchestra

Peter Moore (trombone)

Guy Johnston (cello)

BBC Concert Orchestra
Bramwell Tovey

Reviewed by: Peter Joelson

Reviewed: February 2011
Duration: 70 minutes



This is Chandos’s third release of orchestral works by Edward Gregson (born 1945) and all but Stepping Out are premiere recordings. The composer has had a long and fruitful career writing for brass groups and has a particular love of writing concertos.

Gregson’s first large-scale orchestral composition, Music for Chamber Orchestra, was commissioned by the English Chamber Orchestra in 1967 and completed the next year, the composer hoping it would be taken up by Daniel Barenboim and aired during the orchestra’s South American tour. In four movements, and in its slow first one giving more than a nod to Shostakovich, and in which a motif from the Fifth Symphony is to be clearly heard, the piece shows a fully mature composer at work. Scored for strings and two each of oboes, bassoons and horns, the piquancy of the second and last movements is brought out by some very fine playing by the BBC Concert Orchestra, with some especially gorgeous sounds from the oboes. In the end, the work was not taken on tour, and Gregson was not moved to write for orchestra for another ten years.

The Trombone Concerto was commissioned by the Bedfordshire Education Service in 1979 for the winner of the first BBC Young Musician of the Year contest, Michael Hext, who went on to be a very successful solo and orchestral career and currently to be heard in the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. On this recording, the soloist is another winner of the contest, Peter Moore, who in 2008 was the youngest-ever winner, aged just twelve. Needing no allowances for tender years, Moore puts across the varied colours and rhythms with aplomb and the results here are stunning especially in the riveting cadenza.

The Two Pieces for String Orchestra contrast well: the first written in memory of the artist Dorothy Bradford (1918-2008) inspired by her work “Goddess”, illustrated in the accompanying booklet. Rich in atmosphere, with a fine solo viola part played by Timothy Welch, the work’s pivotal moment comes at the Golden Section, the architecture of the piece inspired by that geometric beauty. The second, ‘Stepping Out’, is a shorter, more out-of-doors work.

The concerto for cello, A Song for Chris, was commissioned by Ralph Kirshbaum and the Royal Northern College of Music Cello Festival and dedicated to Christopher Rowland (1946-2007) who died from cancer. Rowland had been in the Fitzwilliam String Quartet, famous for recording for Decca the first complete cycle of Shostakovich’s quartets. Gregson quotes from the Third Quartet, written in 1946, in the second movement. As in the Trombone Concerto, the movements follow without a break; here, two quicker ones are enclosed by two slower ones, the last, titled ‘Song;, ending the work in a confident and optimistic mood. Guy Johnston, the soloist in this first recording, produces some glorious sounds from his instrument. Listen out, for example, for the transition between the ‘Meditation’ and the ‘Intermezzo’, and in the busy ‘Toccata-Scherzo’.

This fine cross-section of orchestral works by Edward Gregson is equally finely executed by that hard-working group, the BBC Concert Orchestra, in really excellent form here under Bramwell Tovey. Chandos’s recording quality is superb, the Watford Colosseum, its comfortable acoustic much-loved by recording engineers and listeners for many years, allowing the sound to expand comfortably. The recording is also available in higher-than-CD quality as a high-resolution (96/24) download, direct from Chandos. All very highly recommended.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to content