Lambert: Romeo and Juliet; Piano Concerto; Prize Fight; The Bird Actors

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Romeo and Juliet; Piano Concerto; Prize Fight; The Bird Actors
PERFORMER: Jonathan Plowright (piano); English Northern Philharmonia/David Lloyd-Jones
Benjamin Britten wasn’t the only fabulously gifted youngster 20th-century British music produced. Constant Lambert may only just have been touching 20 when he wrote these five pieces, but they are all vibrant and technically dazzling. Young Lambert was clearly in awe of Prokofiev and Stravinsky (however much he may have come to regret the latter infatuation), but he is no slavish imitator. The influences are fully digested and processed into something with a flavour of its own – zesty, refreshing, without a trace of stodgy English provincialism. Don’t be misled by the title: Romeo and Juliet is pure subversive neo-classical fun (with the emphasis on the ‘neo’). Prize Fight is more like a sophisticated silent-film comedy score – the story line virtually suggests itself. As for the Piano Concerto, it’s an effort to believe Lambert was only 19 when he wrote the short score: everything about this splendid youthful jeux d’esprit is fully in focus.


The performances are splendid. David Lloyd-Jones and the English Northern Philharmonia give the impression of enjoying themselves as much as the composer evidently did. The Piano Concerto and Prize Fight sound just that bit more confident and energized than in the BBC Concert Orchestra/Barry Wordsworth recordings (ASV), and pianist Jonathan Plowright brings just the right amounts of vitality, wit and delicacy. A must for all British music enthusiasts. Stephen Johnson