WORKS: Concerto for Piano and Nine Players; Eight Poems of Li-Po; Piano Sonata; Mr Bear Squash-you-all-flat
PERFORMER: Ian Brown (piano), Philip Langridge (tenor), Nigel Hawthorne (narrator)Nash Ensemble/Lionel Friend
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66754 DDD
The popular image of Constant Lambert is as one of the enfants terribles of the Twenties, friend of Walton and Berners. His music, though, often tells another story. True, much of it was inspired by jazz – The Rio Grande is a prime example – but even these works can suggest a melancholy and depressive state of mind: the Piano Concerto of 1931, for example (unusually scored for a chamber ensemble of nine players), ends in profound despair, a pointer, perhaps, that Lambert would later die of alcoholism brought about, partly, by critical savaging of his ballet scores. Ian Brown and the players of the Nash Ensemble could not be bettered and are warmly recorded.
Not all the works on this superlative and generously filled disc are quite as dark, however. Mr Bear Squash-you-all-flat, the earliest work (1924), is like a cross between Peter and the Wolf and The Soldier’s Tale, with shades of Façade (in whose wake the 18-year-old Lambert composed it). Nigel Hawthorne narrates the tale of a series of animals finding a home in a tree-trunk, which is finally sat upon by a bear – the chamber accompaniment is great fun. Matthew Rye