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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67296
Recording details: March 2005
Ulster Hall, Belfast, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: January 2006
Total duration: 23 minutes 51 seconds

'This Hyperion newcomer possesses many virtues. Piers Lane responds with nimble sensitivity, David Lloyd-Jones secures a tidy response from the Ulster Orchestra and the performance as a whole has a sparkle, eagerness and snap that are most refreshing' (Gramophone)

'Robert Threlfall's notes make a good case for regarding the three-movement original as having a greater validity, and this splendid first recording bears him out … Piers Lane, an eloquent advocate' (BBC Music Magazine)

'it is interesting to hear Delius in a robust frame of mind, and the performance itself is one of great allure and power' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Lane makes a convincing case for the piece, and his performance is paired with an equally sparky one of John Ireland's concerto. His punchy abrasiveness undercuts the work's more fey moments, and gives it an almost neoclassical edge' (The Guardian)

'Those who are familiar with (and those who have dismissed) Delius's Piano Concerto in the 1907 revision should make the acquaintance of the original version without more ado' (International Record Review)

'This first recording of the original version from 1904 reveals a work stamped with far more rhapsodic gusto and genuine heartache than the composer's misguided revisions suggest. Lane's performance is very enjoyable; the recording does the players proud' (The Times)

'Delius's Piano Concerto gets strong advocacy from Lane, Lloyd-Jones and the Ulster Orchestra. The two Ireland works, Legend and the Piano Concerto, make ideal companions on this highly attractive, collectable disc' (The Sunday Times)

'Lane gives engagingly virtuoso, extrovert and affectionate performances throughout' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Throughout, Piers Lane is sympathetic, sensitive and a virtuoso, and the support from David Lloyd-Jones and the Ulster Orchestra is exact. The vivid recording presents an exemplary balance between piano and orchestra' (Fanfare, USA)

Piano Concerto in E flat major
composer
Spring to Summer 1930

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The concerto was written in the spring and summer of 1930 and it was seen at the time as a British response to Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto, and was thought terribly modern for its use of fibre dance band mutes by the trumpets. Advance publicity for the concerto harped on the dance band connection, possibly suggesting Ireland to be another Gershwin, and it attracted a large audience. To us apparent resonances of Ravel’s G major concerto merely record something that was in the air, for the Ravel had not then been completed and would not be heard in London for another eighteen months.

Although Ireland’s concerto is customarily described as being in three movements, only two are marked in the score, the music moving straight on from the slow movement into what is de facto the high spirited finale, Allegretto giocoso. The first movement opens with a ten-bar reflective orchestral introduction, the theme on strings perhaps an echo of the plainsong he would have known in church, and the magical distant horns at the fourth bar seeming to be heralding some far-off world coming slowly into view. This forms a sort of motto, becoming a resource for later invention and is incorporated into the first main theme in the piano solo that follows. It is entirely characteristic of Ireland that when the piano joins, instead of fiery figurations he gives us what is to all intents and purposes the opening of one of his evocative piano miniatures. However he also knows when to stop, and the music accelerates to the catchy faster theme first presented on trumpet and clarinets which is heard many times during the movement. The concerto is notable for the way Ireland links extended passages of unaccompanied piano with orchestral colour and only uses the full orchestra at the climaxes.

A slow version of the second theme of the first movement opens the second movement and is followed, as in the first, by a solo passage that could be one of Ireland’s evocative miniatures. It would not be too fanciful to describe this movement, with its yearning falling sevenths in the strings, as a love song. Eventually a side drum tattoo breaks the reverie and with a miniature cadenza leads into the energetic finale. To a British audience at the time the use of Chinese block to rap out the rhythm must have seemed cutting-edge. Here the slower second subject includes one of Ireland’s motivic references, in this case a figure of four semiquavers quoted from Spring will not wait and We’ll to the woods no more, both works dedicated to Arthur Miller, an earlier constant companion. Themes from the earlier movements return, and with the second the solo violin sings a regretful counter-melody. This tune is said to be from a student string quartet written by Helen Perkin, but the allusion to his pianist seems to have been more elusive, and wherever it appears he thoroughly disguised it.

The work was an immediate success, and for forty years it was the pre-eminent British piano concerto played by the leading players of the day, notably Clifford Curzon, Moura Lympany and Eileen Joyce as well as Gina Bachauer and Artur Rubinstein.

from notes by Lewis Foreman © 2006

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