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British Composers Premiere Collections Vol. 5

Brownridge / Laus / Malta Po
Release Date: 07/08/2014 
Label:  Cameo Classics Catalog #: 9046  
Composer:  Kenneth LeightonRuth Gipps
Performer:  Angela Brownridge
Conductor:  Michael Laus
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Malta Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Volume 5
As we have by now learnt from volume 4 in this line, Cameo offer good performing standards from Michael Laus and the Malta Philharmonic. There’s no departure here in this release showcasing two rare British piano concertos.

Angela Brownridge has long been a champion of Leighton. She recorded the complete works for solo piano for Delphian. Her artistry and skills will be well known from her three Cameo discs of the mainstream classics and her Saint-Saëns piano concertos on Quicksilva. She studied with Leighton at Edinburgh University and played the Brahms Second Piano Concerto at the outset of her concert career with the London Repertoire Orchestra, Ruth Gipps conducting. She recalls of Gipps that "I
Read more met a woman of extreme courage, undaunted by current opinions, and throughout her life she maintained her tremendous passion for music".

Gipps kept the altar flame of tonality in British music burning at a time when such determination was seen as foolhardy and eccentric. She paid, and after her death continues to pay, dear for such idiosyncrasy. I corresponded with Gipps a little in the early 1980s and she was kind enough to send me a tape copy of Eileen Broster’s 1950s BBC broadcast of the piano concerto alongside broadcasts and in-hall tapes of the symphonies 2, 3 and 5 and her cantata The Cat. I already had the Fourth Symphony from a broadcast in the 1980s by the BBCSO and John Pritchard. Brownridge also provides the factually rewarding and contextually valuable liner-notes.

The Leighton is in three movements. There’s an aggressively frenetic blitzkrieg opener which keeps a grip on musicality. Then comes a middle movement of resplendently shadowed romanticism. The finale is high-spirited, insouciant yet always serious - Leighton does not fool about. The concerto ends in an explosive ascending ‘stab’.

Leighton’s Third Piano Concerto can be heard as part of Chandos series devoted to this composer. His Second Piano Concerto awaits its recording premiere but has been broadcast by the BBC in a performance conducted by Kenneth Montgomery in which the pianist was Peter Wallfisch.

Next we turn to Ruth Gipps, a pupil of RVW, Gordon Jacob and Tobias Matthay. Her catalogue is extensive. I had not previously heard her solo piano music. Her Theme and Variations and Opalescence - what a title - is harmonically from the same homeland as Bax and Ireland of the 1920s and 1930s. It is differentiated from their works by a more candidly direct, lyrically expressive voice. There is a touch here of RVW’s Lake in the Woods and Ireland’s Amberley Wild Brooks. These two solo pieces are well worth seeking out alongside. Her other pieces include, for solo piano, Fairy Shoemaker (1929) and Sea Nymph (1941) and Conversation (1950) both for two pianos.

The three-movement Piano Concerto by Gipps is stirringly romantic work with a nice balance struck between glinting moonlight and triumphant struggle. Here the music encases a core which often belongs on the same ley-line as Vaughan Williams. She achieves a pianism that seems more at ease with itself than RVW ever achieved. His Piano Concerto always seems rather awkward to me despite its muscularity and magnificence. There’s none of that with Gipps. There are some simply breathtaking moments here including the pastoral dream in the centre of the first movement and the pulse-taming and yieldingly silky middle movement. For all its beguiling lyricism this is music that remains succinct. In the finale there is a touch of the Ireland piano concerto third movement. This is music that chimes away in a glittering spray which is shared in an egalitarian way with the orchestra.

Ruth Gipps is well worth further research and recording effort. You can read more about her music in Jill Halstead’s study - Anti-Modernism, Nationalism and Difference in English Music.

Her Second Symphony can be heard on ClassicO and her Horn Concerto on Lyrita. We need much more of her orchestral music and there is no dearth of it.

This makes very welcome inroads into the still crowded shelves of unduly neglected British music.

- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International Read less

Works on This Recording

Concerto for Piano no 1 in D minor, op.11 by Kenneth Leighton
Performer:  Angela Brownridge (Piano)
Conductor:  Michael Laus
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Malta Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Theme and Variations for Piano, op. 57a by Ruth Gipps
Performer:  Angela Brownridge (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Opalescence, Op. 72 by Ruth Gipps
Performer:  Angela Brownridge (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Concerto for Piano, Op. 34 by Ruth Gipps
Performer:  Angela Brownridge (Piano)
Conductor:  Michael Laus
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Malta Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 

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