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VINE VOICEon 24 March 2006
This is the twelfth in Hyperion's ongoing Romantic Piano Concertos series- and a corker it is too. Neither concerto has been recorded before, and in the case of the Parry, this woefully neglected work has not been heard since 1895.
Both Parry and Stanford fell under the long shadow of Brahms, but whilst modern commentators have not seemed able to forgive them this, what both composers learnt from their German idol was a sure grasp of formal musical structures, together with the ability to cast long melodic lines. That Parry and Stanford had distinctive sound worlds of their own has largely been ignored.
If you want evidence of this, listen to this current recording: yes, Brahms has provided the obvious framework, but the tuneful idiom is coloured by the English and Irish backgrounds of each. In neither does Brahms' heavy, lower-register orchestration exclusively prevail.
The Parry is four-square masculine music though with a sure touch in noble and long-limbed thematic material. Cast aside any prejudice about buttoned-up Victorianism- this is anything but: Particularly impressive is the slow movement where Parry's true romantic heart shows through an immaculate sleeve. The last movement cadenza also demonstrates a subtle,controlled power.
Stanford's concerto is the more fleet-footed of the two, and it is therefore a surprise to discover that it is in fact longer than the Parry. Comparisons with Saint-Saens in the delicately balanced first movement are obvious, however this is not slavish imitation:A geniune robust musical intelligence is at work. The concerto is more easily pianistic than the Parry, and like his contemporary,Stanford shows a sustained melodic inspiration.
Both works are given outstanding performances by the adventurous Piers Lane (surely the Michael Ponti of his generation when it comes to more 'off repertoire' pieces). Neither concerto is an easy ride, demonstrating, as they do, different virtuosic challenges. The accompaniment of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Martyn Brabbins is exemplary, as is the recording.
Wholeheartedly recommended for all enthusiasts and explorers.
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