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Gregson: Trumpet Concerto, Saxophone Concerto, Etc / Antonsen, Sugawa

Release Date: 07/29/2008 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 10478   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Edward Gregson
Performer:  Ole Edvard AntonsenPaul TurnerNelson GoernerNobuya Sugawa
Conductor:  Clark Rundell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 6 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

GREGSON Trumpet Concerto. Concerto for Piano and Wind, “Homages.” Saxophone Concerto Clark Rundell, cond; Ole Edvard Antonsen (tpt); Nelson Goerner (pn); Nobuya Sugawa (sax); BBC PO CHANDOS 10478 (66: 27)

The whole idea of originality as a defining element in art is largely a product of the late-Romantic movement and therefore a relatively recent phenomenon. Mozart probably didn’t worry too much about whether he sounded a bit like Haydn at times. Read more Bach apparently wasn’t too concerned if he occasionally used a theme that resembled—or even was—one written by another composer. That just doesn’t work any more. We expect unique voices. This fosters, at times, a game of “gotcha” where critics—and I am guilty here—will dismiss a piece because it sounds like something already heard. Listening to this CD, I found myself making notes like, “Bartók crossed with Malcolm Arnold . . . throw in some Shostakovich and a Nielsen timpani part . . . voila! Gregson Trumpet Concerto.” Yet, I was also impressed with how he used these influences; the natural writing for each instrument, the economical, classic structure of each movement, the brilliant pairings of contrasting themes, the dramatic contrasts between movements, and the extremely effective use of the accompanying ensemble. There were moments, like the coda of the first movement of the Trumpet Concerto—and all of the second movement—which were absolutely haunting. There was also plenty of hair-raising energy, like the climax of the first movement of the Piano Concerto and its stunning final movement. Sure, I could tell where some of the ideas came from, but this was good stuff.

Edward Gregson (b. 1945), many years the principal of the Royal Northern College of Music and a highly honored composer, really nailed my admiration when I read his notes on these works. Smart man that he is, he doesn’t try to hide his influences and styles. He freely admits them, using these influences as homage. The Trumpet Concerto is a tribute to Shostakovich? He develops Shostakovich’s DSCH motif in the second movement. The Piano Concerto is reminiscent of some of the great piano concertos of the past? Gregson subtitles it “Homages” and acknowledges his stylistic debt to the masters he admired in his youth. Want a jazzy concerto for saxophone? He absorbs symphonic jazz styles from Bernstein to the French masters like Milhaud and makes them his own—with a big saxy laugh at any of us who might take it too seriously—then quotes Berg to acknowledge the influence on the poignant tone row he uses in the beautiful middle movement. And is that Dies irae in the final movement?

It really comes down to this. While this music may sound rather like Shostakovich or Bartók or Rachmaninoff or Prokofiev or Charlie Parker or—fleetingly—Berg, it isn’t. It is pure Edward Gregson and it is extremely well written, it is exciting and imaginative, and each work is an important addition to the concerto literature of its respective instrument. The performances are perfect. “Originality” be damned; this is great music. Enjoy!

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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Trumpet by Edward Gregson
Performer:  Ole Edvard Antonsen (Trumpet), Paul Turner (Timpani)
Conductor:  Clark Rundell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Concerto for Piano and Wind "Homages" by Edward Gregson
Performer:  Nelson Goerner (Piano)
Conductor:  Clark Rundell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Concerto for Saxophone by Edward Gregson
Performer:  Nobuya Sugawa (Saxophone)
Conductor:  Clark Rundell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 

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