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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: 27 minutes 16 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)

Piano Concerto in A minor 'Highland'
composer
1921; composed for Jessie Munro who gave the first performance in 1921 in Guildford with Claude Powell's orchestra under the composer

Allegro moderato  [11'58]
Adagio  [8'12]
Allegro  [7'06]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Somervell wrote his ‘Highland’ Concerto for the Scottish pianist Jessie Munro. It was first performed at Guildford by her with Claude Powell’s orchestra under the composer’s baton in 1921. Jessie Munro played it again at Bournemouth on 23 February 1922 (returning after her 1919 appearance there in Somervell’s Normandy) but after that it faded and appears to have been little played. Some lists of the composer’s music fail even to mention it. Jessie Munro was a student of Leopold Godowsky, first appearing on the concert platform at the age of twelve. She toured extensively in Britain and abroad appearing with many leading conductors, but ultimately she failed to have a high-profile career. After her marriage in 1911 the soloist had become Mrs Hay-Drummond-Hay though still Jessie Munro on the concert platform. She was divorced in 1924 and lived until 1961.

We are told all the themes of this concerto are original, though based on such strong traditional Scottish elements as to make one constantly find the title of a familiar tune is on the tip of the tongue. The first movement is on the largest scale, lasting almost twelve minutes. The music is remarkably uncomplicated. The opening theme, with its distinctive ‘Scotch snap’, reappears throughout in a variety of dressings and rhythms, almost in the manner of a set of variations. The second element comes as a contrasted romantic slow theme, particularly effective when heard solo on the piano, and further variety is provided by various Scottish dance rhythms which generate episodes that punctuate the proceedings at energetic moments of transition.

The composer remarked in a programme note that the second movement is more ‘Scottish’ than ‘Highland’, a distinction underlined by its pentatonic second theme. This is a very lightly scored and charmingly lyrical movement. The orchestral opening features a low solo horn and an extended cor anglais solo, while later there is an affecting solo violin statement of the theme. Then the music is entirely given to the piano and strings, who answer each other, and in the middle section the strings are muted as they sing their misty song.

The finale follows without a break and is a vigorous rondo, but with several delightful and extended reflective passages. The piano states the opening theme without the orchestra, which soon takes it up and, dance-like, gives the impression of pushing the tempo. The contrasted B section soon follows, giving rise to a tuneful episode before the vigorous first theme returns. Somervell gives opportunities for various instrumental solos and as the centrepiece of his movement we find a gloriously romantic and extended episode for solo piano with the orchestra providing a mere background shimmer. The romantic treatment continues, but the music regains its ebullient vigour by the end, which comes without an extended coda.

from notes by Lewis Foreman © 2011

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