Composer: John Gardner
Performer: Peter Donoho
Orchestra: Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Conductor: David Lloyd-Jones
Number of Discs: 1
Format: FLAC (tracks)
Size: 630 MB
01. Midsummer Ale Overture, Op. 73
Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat major, Op. 34
02. I. Allegro con brio
03. II. Theme and variations
04. III. Finale: Rondo
Symphony No. 1 in D minor, Op. 2
05. I. Lento e grave
06. II. Scherzo: Allegro
07. III. Lento
08. IV. Finale: Allegro molto
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Recorded: 28-30 November 2006
Recording Venue: Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, Scotland
This coupling of two of John Gardner’s major works, plus a sparkling comedy overture, could not be more welcome. He celebrated his 90th birthday in 2007, and has always been astonishingly prolific; maybe one reason for his neglect when there is so much to choose from.
The First Symphony (1946-47), the most extended work on the new disc, is in four movements spanning more than 40 minutes. The idiom is more abrasive than in Gardner’s later works, with a grinding slow introduction leading to an Allegro with echoes of Walton in its jazzy syncopations, though with sharper harmonies. A chattering Scherzo in triple time leads to a Lento slow movement with whole-tone passages and orchestration echoing Debussy and Ravel. The finale is strongly rhythmic. As always in Gardner’s music the orchestration is brilliantly clear, and after an interlude of stillness, the work ends with a ripe and optimistic D major chord.
The First Piano Concerto (1957) offers a contrasted idiom in its percussive echoes of the Bartók concertos, suiting Peter Donohoe’s strong style admirably in a performance brilliantly backed by the RSNO. The clangorous opening movement leads to a still slow movement with echoes of Bartók but also of John Ireland. The finale brings more echoes of Walton and Arnold in music that is invariably attractive and distinctive.
The disc is dazzlingly rounded off with a rumbustious comedy overture Midsummer Ale, which should bring renewed attention to the composer’s most attractive music.
A victim of late ’50s Darmstadtism, Gardner’s music is making a welcome comeback…The First Piano Concerto (1967) offers a contrasted idiom in its percussive echoes of the Bartók concertos, suiting Peter Donohoe’s strong style admirably in a performance brilliantly backed by David Lloyd-Jones and the RSNO. The disc is dazzlingly rounded off with a rumbustious comedy overture. Midsummer Ale, which I hope will bring renewed attention to the composer’s most attractive music.