FergusonGerhardDarntonRowley

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COMPOSERS: FergusonGerhardDarntonRowley
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: British Piano Concertos
WORKS: Piano Concertos
PERFORMER: Northern SinfoniaPeter Donohoe
CATALOGUE NO: 8.55729
There’s plenty of variety in these four

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concertos for piano and strings. The

1938 First Concerto by Alec Rowley,

best known for innumerable teaching

pieces, sounds in turn like Hindemith,

Rachmaninov, Delius’s First Cuckoo

and Lambert’s Rio Grande, but it’s

held together by some busily effective

piano writing. The 1948 Concertino

by the little-known Christian

Darnton is less successful in escaping

from the shadow of Stravinsky. The

1951 Concerto by the Ulsterman

Howard Ferguson is designed on

strictly Classical lines, but includes

some Romantically friendly melodic

writing and ends in Festival of Britain

optimism. Most challenging is the

1961 Concerto by the Catalan-born

modernist Roberto Gerhard, a virtuoso

piece full of Spanish references,

notably in a bizarre carnivalesque

finale with hints not only of ‘La folia’

but also of Chabrier’s España.

Peter Donohoe achieves miracles

in delivering mountains of notes with

dazzling aplomb and simultaneously

directing the excellent Northern

Sinfonia strings (though the unnamed

leader surely deserves a credit). Only

in the rhythmically intricate first

movement of the Gerhard, taken

faster than the metronome mark,

does a slightly panicky feeling set in.

Perhaps because of the layout needed

for soloist-direction, the recording

has a slightly clangorous piano sound,

and the strings are often too far in

the background. But don’t let that

put you off a fascinating collection.

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Anthony Burton