REVIEW: Grieg and Delius Piano Concertos

World premieres of music by Edvard Grieg are not that common these days, not least because he died in 1907! But here, courtesy of the indefatigable Robert Matthew-Walker, who has forgotten more about music than I will ever know, we get two: Grieg’s sketches for his abandoned second piano concerto, one with and the other without Matthew-Walker’s orchestrations, based on Grieg’s own indications in the score.

It’s a fascinating piece, with five separate, very Griegian melodic strands, well laid out for the piano, and lasting almost four minutes. 

What a shame he never finished it. What’s extra good about this CD is the way it has been planned. There’s Grieg’s celebrated A minor concerto, of course, receiving an expansive performance from Mark Bebbington, which lacks only the last ounce of poetry.

And maybe the outer movements are a bit slow, being about two minutes longer in each case than most serious rivals. But with the Royal Philharmonic under Jan Latham-Koenig on fine form, this is a good listen.

Even better is Delius’s Grieg inspired piano concerto from 1907, which is nothing like as well known as it deserves. Delius and Grieg were close for the last 20 years of the Norwegian master’s life.

At their first meeting, Grieg presented the young Delius with the score of his piano concerto. Ten years later, Delius produced a one-movement Fantasy for piano and orchestra, later turned into a three-movement concerto, which would be reworked into the exhilarating one-movement piece, full of terrific tunes, presented here using Sir Thomas Beecham’s own score.

Room is also found for three very Debussyian Preludes for solo piano, composed by Delius in 1921, and his earlier On Hearing The First Cuckoo In Spring for piano duo. In terms of quality, duration, and musicianship, this release from a small family firm is an example to the bigshots of how to produce a really compelling album.

David Mellor, Mail Online by David Mellor
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