Lambert entered the Royal College of Music in September 1922, studying with Vaughan Williams and later with R O Morris. Michael Tippett, another RCM student born in 1905, remembered that Lambert was ‘generally regarded as the whizz-kid’ at the College. In June 1923 an orchestral work, Green Fire
, had a play-through at a RCM Patron’s Fund Rehearsal and apparently startled Vaughan Williams with its daring harmonic writing for trombones with consecutive sevenths and ninths. While that score has not survived, another early work has, if only in a two-piano short score: the Piano Concerto of 1924. The clearly indicated directions for the orchestration were not realized until Edward Shipley and Giles Easterbrook undertook this task for a performance given on 2 March 1988 by Jonathan Plowright and the Redcliffe Chamber Orchestra conducted by Christopher Adey. Lambert was always unconventional in his choice of subjects and in his orchestration; just as his last ballet, Tiresias
, has no upper strings, The Rio Grande
lacks woodwind, and his 1931 Piano Concerto calls for only nine players in addition to the soloist, so this 1924 concerto is scored only for two trumpets, timpani and strings. (Lambert was himself an able timpanist as well as a fine pianist.) Cast in four continuous movements with the slow movement coming third, it is a work of considerable accomplishment and even originality for a nineteen-cum-twenty-year-old. It is arguably the finest of his student works, with some passages of great beauty.
from notes by Stephen Lloyd © 2005