Camilleri: Piano Concerto No. 1 (Mediterranean); ‘Piano Concerto No. 2 (Maqam); ‘Piano Concerto No. 3 (Leningrad)

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COMPOSERS: Camilleri
LABELS: Unicorn-Kanchana
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1 (Mediterranean); ‘Piano Concerto No. 2 (Maqam); ‘Piano Concerto No. 3 (Leningrad)
PERFORMER: André de Groote (piano)Bournemouth SO/Michael Laus
CATALOGUE NO: DKP(CD) 9150 DDD
The Maltese composer Charles Camilleri, born in 1931, defines his music as being abstracted out of the aura of the four ‘elements’ that he subconsciously feels ‘engulf the whole world: the Orientally meditative, African ritualism, jazz and European nationalism’. Camilleri’s work, however, isn’t about fashionable trends or isms. It’s about the rhythms, incantations and scales of Africa, the Middle East and India, with the ideal of an all-embracing ‘world music’ without frontier or prejudice. He’s a composer of inexhaustible energy and enthusiasms, and is as receptive to beautiful melody and repose (order-God-simplicity) as to densely tangled conflict and stress (chaos-man-complexity). His eclecticism (from West End musical to Hindu raga) may well bewilder. But his inquiring mind, his colourful resource, and the courage of his synthesis will impress. Some of his best ideas are about stillness. His creative development, nevertheless, has been anything but static.

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Unicorn-Kanchana’s new disc of the three piano concertos is Camilleri’s first major British release since Gillian Weir’s 1975 Argo version of the monumental Missa mundi for organ – now surely long overdue for reissue. André de Groote plays efficiently, though the rhythmic intricacies of Maqam and Leningrad don’t always come naturally, and his brittle, percussive touch could do with greater variety and moderation. The sound balance, generally close and unatmospheric, belying the natural acoustic of Bournemouth’s Winter Gardens and unflattering to the composer’s intentions, is disappointing.

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Early Camilleri – along with a Romantically evocative suite by one of his students, John Galea (born 1960), and an oddly focused, Italianate impression by Pulvirenti (1896-1964) – features on the short-value Discover album. Laus infuses the Maltese and Mediterranean Dances with a bewitching rubato, and underlines the surprising Russian inflexions of the latter to strong theatrical effect. Ates Orga