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Arthur Bliss: Piano Concerto; Piano Sonata; Concerto for Two Pianos [CD]

Arthur Bliss , David Lloyd-Jones , Royal Scottish National Orchestra , Peter Donohoe , Martin Roscoe Audio CD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Frequently Bought Together

Arthur Bliss: Piano Concerto; Piano Sonata; Concerto for Two Pianos + Bliss: Meditation on a Theme Of John Blow/ Metamorphic Variations + Bliss - Checkmate; Mêlée Fantasque
Price For All Three: £14.26

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Product details

  • Orchestra: Royal Scottish National Orchestra
  • Conductor: David Lloyd-Jones
  • Composer: Arthur Bliss
  • Audio CD (5 Jan 2004)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B0000ZKY10
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 45,364 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Listen to Samples and Buy MP3s

Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Samples
Song Title Time Price
Listen  1. Piano Concerto: Allegro con brio16:47Album Only
Listen  2. Piano Concerto: Adagietto10:39Album Only
Listen  3. Piano Concerto: Andante maestoso - Molto vivo11:25Album Only
Listen  4. Piano Sonata: Moderato marcato 7:58£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  5. Piano Sonata: Adagio sereno 7:56£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  6. Piano Sonata: Allegro 5:58£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  7. Concerto for 2 Pianos and Orchestra: Allegro giusto - Larghetto tranquillo - Vivo12:09Album Only


Product Description

Amazon.co.uk

The story of Arthur Bliss' career is one of steady assimilation to an assumed British mainstream of thumping big tunes to which he was--at least in his early post-Impressionist stage and his Jazz age modernist phase--something of an alien. Yet the ambitious 1939 Piano Concerto includes all these aspects, satisfactorily combined in a work that alternates the magisterial and the mercurial, the gently flowing and the fiercely dynamic. It was written for Solomon, but Peter Donohoe has the work's measure, too, and makes it wholly his own.

This excellent disc usefully includes both Bliss' Piano Sonata from the 1950s and the Double Piano Concerto that he worked on at various points, and rewrote for various combinations of soloists, throughout his career. This Naxos release is a superlative bargain that allows us to get to know a composer whose Establishment status in old ages sometimes obscures his early radicalism and middle-period accomplishment. --Roz Kaveney


Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chromium-plated Brahms 24 Mar 2004
Format:Audio CD
Over 35 years of classical music listening I've heard the Bliss concerto 4-5 times, and its sheer exuberance has always impressed me. A few weeks ago I heard it live for the first time, and it was a knockout performance (Peter Donohoe the soloist). A chromium-plated Brahms concerto, dedicated To the People of the United States of America by a composer who was half-American. I bought this CD the following week. Bliss, avantgarde in his youth, had by the late 1930's embraced a more conventional musical style, but it's great fun all the same. The Piano Sonata is memorable too and the short Concerto for Two Pianos is worth an occasional airing. Bliss, to my mind, writes tunes that are memorable, and that's worth a lot to me.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A BRITISH MUSICAL OFFERING TO AMERICA 3 April 2004
By DAVID BRYSON TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Audio CD
The Bliss piano concerto and I are old acquaintances. It was premiered ten days before I myself came into the world, and I heard it performed in the 1950's by the original soloist with the same orchestra (then lacking only the prefix 'royal') as on this disc. One sad recollection is that I was able to hear it in the old St Andrew's Halls in Glasgow, one of the finest concert-halls in all Europe, now destroyed in a fire. Probably the only real reservation I have concerning this record is that I miss that marvellous acoustic. I have never attended a concert in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, but I could have done with rather more spaciousness and 'air' in the orchestral sound, and a little more ring to the piano tone in the two concertos, whether or not the new hall's acoustic is responsible for the lack.
Peter Donohoe seems to me considerably under-appreciated. He is not only a more assured virtuoso than the original soloist Solomon ever was, he is a very assured stylist as well. Anyone with a tentative interest in the British Piano Concerto Foundation, under whose auspices this record is issued, might prefer to start with this disc than with its excellent predecessor the Rawsthorne concertos. Bliss did not have as strong or distinctive a musical voice as his English contemporaries Delius and Walton did, but his style is no mere matter of a scissors-and-paste collage of various musical idioms current at the time. He has something of his own to say, to my ears something very attractive, interesting and agreeable, and I can hardly imagine a better and more confident advocate for it than Donohoe.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Audio CD
These are very fine modern performances of these three Bliss works. I have to take issue with an earlier reviewer however. Although Donohoe may well be able to match Solomon for technique ( he certainly is not a more assured virtuoso as anyone who has heard Solomon;s Lizst Hungarian Fantasia or Kansas City Tchaikovsky 1 will know both of stunning, coruscating brilliance)I find for all his technical brilliance that there is more charm and less of a sense of romantic gestures without heart in Solomon and Boult's classic recording . I also think he must cede to Mewton Wood's jaw dropping recording which is perhaps the most exciting of all . Solomon , however , for me makes the music sound better than it is .
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A BRITISH MUSICAL OFFERING TO AMERICA 3 April 2004
By DAVID BRYSON - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
The Bliss piano concerto and I are old acquaintances. It was premiered ten days before I myself came into the world, and I heard it performed in the 1950's by the original soloist with the same orchestra (then lacking only the prefix `royal') as on this disc. One sad recollection is that I was able to hear it in the old St Andrew's Halls in Glasgow, one of the finest concert-halls in all Europe, now destroyed in a fire. Probably the only real reservation I have concerning this record is that I miss that marvellous acoustic. I have never attended a concert in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, but I could have done with rather more spaciousness and `air' in the orchestral sound, and a little more ring to the piano tone in the two concertos, whether or not the new hall's acoustic is responsible for the lack.
Peter Donohoe seems to me considerably under-appreciated. He is not only a more assured virtuoso than the original soloist Solomon ever was, he is a very assured stylist as well. Anyone with a tentative interest in the British Piano Concerto Foundation, under whose auspices this record is issued, might prefer to start with this disc than with its excellent predecessor the Rawsthorne concertos. Bliss did not have as strong or distinctive a musical voice as his English contemporaries Delius and Walton did, but his style is no mere matter of a scissors-and-paste collage of various musical idioms current at the time. He has something of his own to say, to my ears something very attractive, interesting and agreeable, and I can hardly imagine a better and more confident advocate for it than Donohoe. There is some very striking piano playing here, in particular some fine martellato trills near the end of the solo concerto's first movement that make me interested to hear this soloist in the Brahms D minor.
The other two works on the record are Bliss's piano sonata and a short concerto for two pianos, in which Donohoe is joined by Martin Roscoe in a very sympathetic, democratic and polished partnership. Something approaching solo status is also given in this work to the xylophone, and as far as that is concerned the acoustic, whatever my slight reservations about it in general, works to its advantage. I think you would probably know that this was English music. However the solo concerto was written specifically for the New York World Fair in 1939 and is specifically dedicated to the people of America. I am quite unable to comment on the composer's view that the concerto should be `romantic' in style because the American public are of a romantic disposition. Bliss was part-American by parentage, Donohoe is English but presumably of Irish extraction, I myself am Scottish and happy to hear how the orchestra from which I first learned about orchestral music has developed into a world-class band, but probably not well placed to assess the comparative romanticism of Americans. To my own ears this is thoroughly engaging music that I expect to be playing frequently. In fact the most notable revival of a British piano concerto was by no less than Sviatoslav Richter, whose record of Britten's concerto with the composer conducting is in the current catalogues, although not as part of the series under review here. Among them they are making me eager to hear more of it, and I commend this issue wholeheartedly.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars for Bliss completists only 7 Jan 2007
By jsa - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
I'm fond of much of the music of Sir Arthur Bliss -- A Colour Symphony, Adam Zero, Cello Concerto, Melee Fantasque and Music for Strings are all first rate works, abounding with good ideas. Bliss also composed some very good chamber music, including string quartets and assorted pieces for woodwinds and strings. Unfortunately, Sir Arthur's piano concerto, which takes up more than half of the compact disc under review, doesn't fall into the same category of excellence. Despite a prodigious effort by the fine pianist Peter Donohoe, the music simply fails to inspire. The score reminds me of Rachmaninoff's fourth concerto, with a lot of bombastic statements and keyboard flash and not much more than that.

The piano sonata didn't hold alot of appeal for me either, which was disappointing as (once again) I was anticipating music on the same level as Bliss's chamber and orchestral output.

I have awarded this disc three stars because the musicians have turned in strong performances - but, with the provisio that only Bliss completists need to check this disc out....
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun, if not exactly great, music in very fine performances 27 July 2010
By G.D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Although I am uncertain how well it has fared in the concert hall, Bliss's big piano concerto from 1939 has fared relatively well on disc, although this is as far as I can see its only modern version. I'll have to refrain from comparing alternatives, however - I don't think I've heard any, although the version with Solomon sounds reasonably enticing. The music is bold, brash and clamorous, dramatic with lots of swagger and romantic color, thoroughly extrovert. The first movement in particular shows influences from Gershwin, with jazzy outbursts and strident quarreling between piano and orchestra. Still it manages to balance the brasher parts and the more lyrical vein running through the movement quite impressively, and although there is nothing memorable there in terms of thematic material, the movement does indeed impress musically.

The second movement is thoroughly romantic, tender and atmospheric and the finale a rather hollow-sounding but swaggering thing with ample opportunity for virtuosic show-off from the soloist. Throughout Donohoe's playing is impressive, excelling in the most swashbuckling jazziness as much as in the delicate tenderness of the more lyrical parts. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra follows him admirably under the direction of Lloyd-Jones, and the rapport between soloist and orchestra is quite impressive (especially in the slow movement). So while I wouldn't make any great claims for the work - it is surely not among Bliss's strongest scores - it is good to have it in performances as compelling as these.

The piano sonata dates from 1952 and is clearly cut from the same cloth as the concerto with its mixture of extrovert swagger and romanticism. It is a relatively rewarding work (the robust first movement being the strongest), and Donohoe is certainly a compelling advocate. The concerto for two pianos, from two years before the sonata, draws more heavily on impressionism and perhaps even Les Six. It's a dazzling display of colors and effects, urban like a Martinu score with a dreamlike slow section binding the appealing first section and somewhat harsh final section together. Again a hugely enjoyable work, if not particularly profound or memorable, and again I have real complaints about neither the soloists nor the orchestra. The sound quality is good, and all in all this is a rewarding and recommendable release, even though none of the works shows Bliss at his very best.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two British Piano Concerti and a Piano Sonata 6 Mar 2004
By J Scott Morrison - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
[Update: This disc has just been nominated for a Grammy.]

The featured soloist here, pianist Peter Donohoe, is intimately involved in the ongoing 'British Piano Concerto' series coming out on Naxos. This is a worthwhile venture for the company and certainly has some of us eager for each new release. I have previously written about the wonderful Rawsthorne concerti here at Amazon.

I had never encountered either of the concerti by Arthur Bliss (1891-1975) recorded here. The largest piece (and the first on the CD), the Piano Concerto, is a bit of an overcooked omelet. Bliss wrote it on commission from the British Council for the 1939 New York World's Fair and it was premièred by Solomon with the New York Philharmonic under Adrian Boult. He said that he wanted to write something 'romantic' ... 'for surely the Americans are the most romantic people on earth.' I'm not sure what to make of that comment, but he certainly did write a Romantic concerto with an abundance of Tchaikovskian gestures, particularly for the pianist. Unfortunately that approach coupled with Bliss's musical tendency to mix modal melody with Impressionist harmonies and, in this particular case, with 'American' unresolved dominant sevenths and blue notes, leads to a bit of a mess. The concerto does get stronger as it goes along. The first movement, at almost seventeen minutes, overstays its welcome at least partly because there is little melodic distinction, a fair amount of empty gesturing, and a tendency to get in a rhythmic rut. The second movement is a quiet rumination with some fuzzy and intriguing harmonies. The finale is an energetic rondo with the feeling of a perpetuum mobile, although there are some slower interludes. The ending, however, feels tacked on, almost as if the composer felt he had to end with a bang. Not a success, this piece, but it is nicely played by Donohoe. The piano sound is a bit forward, and the couple of places where the concertmaster's violin has a dialog with the pianist lose their effectiveness because the violinist's sound is so recessed.

From here on, though, is smooth sailing. Next comes a big, broad-shouldered piano sonata, written for Mewton-Wood in 1951. This 21-minute piece has a brusquely energetic first movement characterized by an arresting dotted-note upbeat rhythm (taDUT/DAAH) that has the feel of an Prokofievesque sicilienne, if one can imagine such a thing. The Adagio sereno begins with a series of chords harmonized as if by Debussy and the subjected to a set of increasingly intense yet still serene variations. For me, this is the emotional center of the sonata, and one that I find myself listening to repeatedly on its own and even trying to imitate by ear at my own piano. The third movement is a spiky Stravinskyesque romp, played brilliantly I must say, by Donohoe.

The final piece, the Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, has an interesting history. Bliss wrote a piece for tenor, piano and strings in the early 20s. He then recast it for two pianos, winds, brass and percussion in 1924 and it was premièred in Boston the same year as the famous Aeolian Hall concert that featured Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue.' It then languished until 1950 when he rewrote it for two pianos and full orchestra (the version heard here) and then finally, in 1968, he rewrote it again, this time for two pianists/three hands especially for the two-piano team of Phyllis Sellick and Cyril Smith, the latter having lost the use of one of his hands. (The same team inspired Malcolm Arnold's better-known 'Concerto for Phyllis and Cyril'). It is a twelve-minute work in three sections played without pause. Even more Stravinskyesque than the third movement of the Sonata, the orchestration is positively influenced by that of the early Stravinsky ballets. This lighthearted and sophisticated concerto has the clarity of the best French music of the period, with glinting runs and delicate washes of color from the two pianists. Donohoe is joined at the second piano by friend and colleague Martin Roscoe. Their performance is a triumph; they are in complete sync and yet one can hear two individuals playing. The important orchestral part seems less recessed than in the one-piano concerto recording. Conductor David Lloyd-Jones and his Royal Scottish National Orchestra give solid support.

TT=72:59

Scott Morrison
4.0 out of 5 stars Rarely heard engaging music 18 Aug 2011
By MM - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Modernish romantic, tunefull late Brittish music. Well performed and recorded. This music should be more mainstream. Easy to enjoy.
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