Glass: Cello Concerto; Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists and Orchestra

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LABELS: Orange Mountain Music
ALBUM TITLE: The Concerto Project, Vol. 1
WORKS: Cello Concerto; Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists and Orchestra
PERFORMER: Julian Lloyd Webber (cello), Evelyn Glennie, Jonathan Haas (timpani); Royal Liverpool PO/Gerard Schwarz
Here’s a welcome antidote to the blandness that seems to be clogging up so much American music at present. Both of these exciting pieces are sure-fire crowd-pleasers, yet both are also uncompromisingly rigorous in compositional terms. It’s always pleasing to see Julian Lloyd Webber doing what he does best, which is playing demanding music very well indeed. ‘His’ concerto (it was a 50th birthday present) is also a near-perfect mixture of what Glass does best when writing for such forces, being thoroughly mindful of orchestral texture, the sheer power of harmony and metrical vigour and indeed the expressive abilities of a good soloist. Lloyd Webber takes all of this on board, gliding seamlessly from yearning lyricism to a jackhammer-like assertiveness with apparent ease but with no trace of complacency. This is most apparent in the opening of the third movement, which I won’t spoil for you by describing any further. The thunderous second piece, requiring two soloists playing a total of 14 timpani, is cheerfully bombastic but expertly controlled by Jonathan Haas and Evelyn Glennie. Sonically the disc is less than ideal, often sounding congested and rather gritty, but the music transcends this so effortlessly that I’m delighted to recommend it anyway. Roger Thomas