Concerto for Piano and Wind ‘Homages’
Ole Edvard Antonsen (trumpet); Nelson Goerner (piano); Nobuya Sugawa (saxophone)
Recorded 12 & 13 September 2007 in Studio 7, New Broadcasting House, Manchester
Reviewed by: Peter Joelson
Reviewed: June 2010
CD No: CHANDOS CHAN 10478
Duration: 66 minutes
Edward Gregson (born 1945), whose music is largely tonal and always interesting, the composer’s many rich strands of inspiration making for rewarding listening, had an early fascination with the concerto form which has resulted in eight published pieces with this designation, three of which appear on this fine release from Chandos, all premiere recordings. There will be more concertos to come, as Gregson’s ambition is to contribute one for every orchestral instrument including percussion.
The earliest work here is the Trumpet Concerto, written in 1983. The orchestral writing is scored for strings with a substantial part for timpani with whom the trumpet converses in the form of an ally during the work. Ole Edvard Antonsen plays with a rich variety of colour and with all the virtuosity needed in the vivacious and sparkling finale. The middle movement serves as a homage to Dmitri Shostakovich, quoting his musical initials, DSCH. This, the longest movement, is especially effective with its coruscating, heart-felt climax.
Nelson Goerner, that fine Argentinean pianist, who records all too little, is the soloist in Gregson’s work for piano (composed for John McCabe), the scoring similar to Stravinsky’s Concerto for Piano and Wind with the addition of a soprano saxophone. Subtitled ‘Homages’, Gregson’s concerto gives the briefest of nods to Stravinsky and merest hints of other 20th-century composers of piano concertos, especially Bartók. Written in affection for these composers, Gregson’s piece retains originality throughout. The middle movement is a substantial passacaglia which builds steadily to a finely executed climax before dying away to the simple construction of the opening. Goerner’s technique in the opening ‘Toccata’ and closing ‘Rondo-Burlesque’ impresses with its security in what is technically demanding music.
Saxophone Concerto was written in 2006 for Nobuya Sugawa, the soloist on this recording. The work has a wide variety of shapes and colours, particularly striking being the soloist’s entrance from a distance, then later the jazzy elements complete with breaks and variety of percussion. The slow movement is yet again striking invention, with its song-of-the-night scene-setting. The sun comes out in bright colours for the finale, glitteringly virtuosic in it writing, and in its execution by Sugawa, to complete this impressive score.
The BBC Philharmonic and Clark Rundell, a conductor of much experience with contemporary music, are on top form, and the quality of the recording and excellent booklet-essay by Paul Hindmarsh are all one would expect from Chandos. For those with the ability to burn and play a DVD-Audio disc, or stream directly, these recordings, as well as the winner of the 2008 BBC Young Musician of the Year competition Peter Moore’s recording of Gregson’s Trombone Concerto, are available as high resolution (24/96) downloads in addition to the usual qualities from Chandos’s website.