Anthony Burton
BBC Music Magazine
March 2017

Hyperion's 'Romantic Piano Concerto' series usually structures programmes by nationality or period; but volume 70 is selected by gender, consisting of works by three female pianist-composers. Pick of the bunch is the Concerto by Amy Beach (see 'Composer of the Month'), which she premiered with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1900. It's a big, ambitious piece in four movements, with a perpetual-movement scherzo before the deeply felt slow movement. It handles its Dvořák-like-idiom with confidence and individuality, and the virtuoso piano writing is tremendously effective. Danny Driver is a highly accomplished soloist, if occasionally lacking in Romantic flexibility; the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Rebecca Miller makes a telling contribution, though recorded a little distantly at the cost of some detail.

The other two, single-movement works suffer from a discrepancy between their scale and their principal material. Cécile Chaminade's 1888 Concertstück sets out with dramatic tremolando strings and a heroic horn call, recalling Wagner's Flying Dutchman, while this theme returns frequently, it doesn't sit easily in the work alongside pianistic glitter, sentimental melodies and balletic dances. The 1923 Concerto by the Birmingham-born Dorothy Howell similarly fails to live up to its opening bold brass statement; but there's some fine solo writing and a lovely languishing slow episode. It would be well worth an occasional concert-hall hearing. But it's the Beach that really deserves a place in the repertoire: how about a Proms performance, for a start?