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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chromium-plated Brahms, 24 Mar 2004
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This review is from: Arthur Bliss: Piano Concerto; Piano Sonata; Concerto for Two Pianos (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
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DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Arthur Bliss: Piano Concerto; Piano Sonata; Concerto for Two Pianos (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.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine modern performance but not a match for Solomon or Mewton Wood, 17 April 2012
This review is from: Arthur Bliss: Piano Concerto; Piano Sonata; Concerto for Two Pianos (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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