Barber • Britten

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Barber,Britten
ALBUM TITLE: Barber • Britten
WORKS: Barber: Piano Concerto; Nocturne for Piano (Homage to John Field); Britten: Piano Concerto (1945 revision); Night Piece (Nocturne)
PERFORMER: Elizabeth Joy Roe (piano); London Symphony Orchestra/Emil Tabakov
CATALOGUE NO: 478 8189


Elizabeth Joy Roe cites several correspondences in both art and life as her reason for putting these composers together. But this CD’s real justification lies in the closely related sound-worlds of their concertos. In the helter-skelter opening of Britten’s Concerto we hear echoes of Bartók, Prokofiev and Shostakovich, while Barber’s final movement has some indisputably Shostakovichian stretches: since the Russians were making the musical weather at the time, such influences were inevitable.

Roe brings an incisive and well-articulated touch to the ebullient first movement of the Britten, though the sound-recording is consistently off-balance; this is rectified in the quirky take on the Viennese waltz which follows. Her treatment of the Impromptu is lyrical and tender, and her characterisation of the uneasily ambiguous closing march suggests a grinning death’s-head rictus.


Barber’s complex and declamatory opening Allegro appassionato is satisfactorily dealt with, the ‘Canzone’ has watercolour charm, and the ostinato underlying the finale has a driving energy; Emil Tabakov and the LSO provide an efficient foil. Barber’s Nocturne single-mindedly pursues a rather too-winsome idea; Britten’s Night Music is typically oblique and allusive. Michael Church