WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 2; Six Pieces from Album for the Young
PERFORMER: Stephen Hough (piano)BBC Scottish SO/Lowell Liebermann
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66966
These are bold but minor scores, derivative and retrograde to the point of nostalgia, but not without their attractions. The outer movements of the Concerto No. 1 boast exciting, angular phrases and endearing Stravinskian rhythms, although it is Barber who is owed the greatest debt in the demanding final Allegro. The central movement (‘Larghissimo’) is aptly described by Hough in the booklet notes as a ‘landscape of loneliness’: Liebermann’s delicate, ambling solo piano figures contain the concerto’s loveliest passages.
The Concerto No. 2 is attractive as well, but a little silly. Much of it sounds like a score from a 1950s ‘sand and sandal’ movie epic. The long melody at the outset of the opening Allegro recalls Vaughan Williams. The third movement seems to suggest mid-century Soviet concertos. Still, the composer’s conducting of the BBC Scottish Orchestra seems vastly more persuasive than Rostropovich’s premiere performance of the work which I heard at the Kennedy Center. The six encores that fill out the disc – from Liebermann’s Album for the Young – fall sweetly somewhere between Schumann and Schuman. Throughout, Hough plays with an intensity and brilliance that is well above the music’s station. Octavio Roca