WORKS: Piano Concerto in A. Scottish Concerto
PERFORMER: Steven Osborne (piano)BBC Scottish SO/Martyn Brabbins
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67023
It’s fun, at first, to try spotting the Brahmsian models for the ideas, textures and turns of phrase in Tovey’s Piano Concerto. But soon you stop, because he inhabits that expressive world so completely there’s no question of imitation. Maybe Tovey’s material isn’t quite as distinctive as Brahms’s, but by God he knows what to do with it. The development section (yes, specifically the development) of his first movement is great music by any standard, joyfully magisterial in its weaving of a seamless stream of dramatic invention. The piece is of course dreadfully old-fashioned for 1903: funny how that no longer matters and we can hear it for the immensely attractive Classic-Romantic Concerto it is.
Tovey’s finale if anything goes back beyond Brahms to Schumann: a clear influence on Mackenzie’s sturdy and immensely accomplished Scottish Concerto (1897), which treats its three folk-tune subjects with resource, respect, and no reverence whatever. It’s almost as good as Tovey’s, more openly virtuosic, and is probably an even better piece than Mackenzie’s fine Violin Concerto, released by Hyperion a few months back. Steven Osborne expounds these excellent and all too explicably neglected concertos with sympathy and dedication, backed by splendid orchestral playing, in a well-balanced recording. One of the best discs in this Hyperion series, and a must for enthusiasts of British music of this period. Calum MacDonald