Foulds: Dynamic Triptych; Music-Pictures Group III; April – England; Keltic Lament; The Song of Ram Dass

COMPOSERS: Foulds
LABELS: Warner
ALBUM TITLE: Foulds
WORKS: Dynamic Triptych; Music-Pictures Group III; April – England; Keltic Lament; The Song of Ram Dass
PERFORMER: Peter Donohoe (piano); CBSO/Sakari Oramo
CATALOGUE NO: 2564 62999-2
What an awe-inspiring magpie of composer was John Foulds! Listening to the piano concerto Dynamic Triptych (the star piece on this disc) you might think the man was determined at all costs to avoid being pigeon-holed: echoes of Bartók, Stravinsky, Koechlin, Skryabin, Holst jockey for position with bursts of garish American and gentler British light music. It’s an initially disconcerting, ultimately enthralling cornucopia of a style. But here’s the paradox: a ‘style’ it definitely is. Nobody else could have fused these elements with quite the same confidence, somehow innocent and knowing at the same time. Of course the performance helps: Peter Donohoe has all the power, brilliance and delicate magic required in Dynamic Triptych, especially in the haunting slow movement – the disc is almost worth having for that alone. Sakari Oramo is as passionately persuasive as he was in the first Warner Foulds disc.

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I have to admit the rewards in the other pieces are more thinly spread. The Song of Ram Dass is not the most flavoursome or ingenious of Foulds’s responses to his adopted Indian homeland, while April England loses something in translation from piano to orchestra. But the relatively early Music Pictures Group III certainly has its moments, and as ever Foulds’s technical control is breathtaking. Excellent recordings too.

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Stephen Johnson