Once again Richard Hickox and the Bournemouth Symphony bring sense and beauty to a piece that the world has really only known as a lump of ugliness from the initial recording given us by Colin Davis. The piece in question is the triple concerto. The core of this work has been made relatively famous, it being the amazing opening to the third and slowest section which sounds like gamelans on Jupiter, that even Davis couldn't mess up. But in the Davis recording everything around it is the screeching and howling that came to define what non cognoscenti would mistakenly assume to be the essence of Tippett. There is a palpable sense at the end of the Davis version that the orchestra is simply relieved to have reached the end of the score, and have no jot of an idea as to what it's all been about. Hickox however has once more mastered the score and has communicated to his players how the piece works and what the journey is intended to feel like. Oh, what a difference. And oh how beautiful. And, as ever with properly executed Tippett, it's a journey into a wonderland of beauty one will never have experienced before.
The other piece on the disc, the Concerto for Orchestra, being more instrumentally sparse was easier for Davis to get right, and so the new version is no great improvement, except perhaps from the audio recording point of view. The piece represents a summary in depth of the sparse dissonant language of his second period that was first developed for the magnificent and strangely neglected opera, King Priam.
I only hope these marvellous Hickox/Chandos recordings have arrived in time to rescue Tippett's reputation as laid down by his earlier interlocutors. Quite simply he was ahead of his time, both compositionally, and with respect to what the Orchestra's of his day were capable of.
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