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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67837
Recording details: January 2010
City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow, Scotland
Produced by John H West
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: September 2011
Total duration: 20 minutes 56 seconds

'Beyond his customary grace and lucid phrasing, Martin Roscoe dispatches the often taxing writing with stylish elan, while the indefatigable Martyn Brabbins once again leads the wonderful (and underrated) BBC Scottish players in three world premiere recordings that sound as if they've been part of the repertoire for years' (Gramophone)

'Martin Roscoe gives splendidly virtuosic and intensely musical accounts of these scores, and he is more than ably partnered by the BBC Scottish Symphony under Martyn Brabbins … here is yet another success in a remarkable series; an excellent CD which is warmly recommended' (International Record Review)

'This is an important release for enthusiasts of British music and for those listeners who specialise in romantic piano concertos. Everything about this CD is exceptional. There is the excellent playing by Martin Roscoe and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Martyn Brabbins. This is a committed performance of three works that are not really in the public domain. Listeners have nothing to compare these premiere recordings with, but I am convinced that they are definitive realisations of works that have been forgotten for far too long' (MusicWeb International)

Normandy 'Symphonic Variations'
1912; first performed at Queen's Hall on 17 February 1913 by Donald Francis Tovey with the London Symphony Orchestra under Arthur Nikisch; the tune was collected from the Normandy village of Varengewville-sur-Mer

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Somervell’s Normandy, a set of symphonic variations for piano and orchestra, was first performed at Queen’s Hall on 17 February 1913 by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by the celebrated Arthur Nikisch, with the solo part played by Donald Francis Tovey. Possibly the highpoint of Somervell’s career as a composer, this prestigious concert also included his Thalassa Symphony, and the press reported ‘the audience was very generous in its appreciation of the composer’. Normandy subsequently appeared at the Queen’s Hall Proms in October 1915, and in December 1919 Jessie Munro played it at Bournemouth with the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra under Dan Godfrey. Later Tovey took the work up and programmed it three times at the Reed concerts in Edinburgh, twice with himself as soloist and once with the pianist Nicholas Orloff. Although it did not achieve a wide circulation, in its day it was clearly thought a repertoire work, a status evident when we find it programmed by the Harrow Philharmonic Society in a wartime concert in 1942.

Somervell calls this work symphonic variations, and although the music plays continuously, consisting of successive free variations, listeners will soon be aware of a shadowy outline of what we might consider a four-movement symphony: introduction and Allegro—slow movement—scherzo—finale. The ‘Normandy’ of the title refers to the French village of Varengeville-sur-Mer, near Dieppe, where the tune was collected well before the First World War. Just eight bars long, the theme consists of four groups of two bars, each ending with two falling minims, a structure which provides Somervell with a succession of varied opportunities for free fantasias based on five short motifs taken from the tune.

The music opens dramatically with grave chords from the brass (actually elements of the theme which is to follow) before the piano plays the first four bars of the theme echoed by the horns. It is repeated and followed by the last four bars, given the same treatment. The whole is then sung by the oboe. This introduction develops with virtuoso writing for the soloist and eventually fades with the motif from the last bar of the tune which leads to the Molto allegro, which has a first movement feel to it. This is worked over many bars and eventually reaches what feels like a lyrical second subject, in fact developed from the falling minims which punctuate the theme. We reach a slower section leading to a solemn Adagio intoned by the brass, and eventually the opening bar of the theme is drummed out to announce the scherzo section, complete with trio derived from the theme. The finale, Allegro ma non troppo, is heralded with rising arpeggios in the piano punctuated by explosive chords at the end of each bar. A ground bass of chromatically slowly rising notes underpins this finale, generating a sequence of short variations within a variation. The music grows to a grand climax and the tune, now glowing on full orchestra, brings the music to an exultant close.

from notes by Lewis Foreman © 2011

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