LABELS: Carlton BBC Radio Classics
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 2; Concerto for Two Pianos; Piano Concerto
PERFORMER: John Ogdon, Brenda Lucas (piano); BBC SO, LPO/John Pritchard, Bournemouth SO/Constantin Silvestri
CATALOGUE NO: 15656 91762 ADD
Alan Rawsthorne’s neo-classical manner invites comparisons with his better-known contemporaries. His Second Piano Concerto predates Tippett’s single work in that medium by some four years; with points of similarity in its material and approach, it seems not merely less adventurous but rather pedestrian. The Concerto for Two Pianos of 1968 appears to be aiming for something more oblique, but can match neither the Tippettian vision nor the wit and incipient hysteria of a Malcolm Arnold; its three-movement structure is oddly unsatisfying.
Robert Simpson’s 1967 Piano Concerto is a more obvious kind of response than Tippett’s to the challenge of producing a Beethovenian statement for our times. But though his material seems anachronistic, Simpson knows exactly what he wants and how to get it. The results have a feeling of real authority about them: craggy but coherent, grand and ultimately rather compelling.
All these BBC archive performances are live. In the Rawsthorne, orchestral playing and recorded sound is poor, even in the more recently-recorded Second Concerto. Simpson fares better; and in all three works, John Ogdon provides playing of persuasive power. Keith Potter