Reconstructing the image
PETER DICKINSON listens to world première recordings
of music by Constant Lambert
This is a major event for Lambert enthusiasts, who have waited for years
to hear the Piano Concerto he wrote at the age of only 19 but never completed.
I remember the first performance, put on by Redcliffe Concerts at St. Johns,
Smith Square, London, on 2 March 1988. Lasting under twenty minutes, it
was played twice - before and after the interval - by Jonathan Plowright
with the Redcliffe Chamber orchestra under Christopher Adey. It did not
make a lasting impression on me at the time, but on the evidence of this
recording it ought to have done. I was well aware then of the dedicated
work from Giles Easterbrook and Edward Shipley that went into orchestrating
the Concerto from short score. Now, with Payne's completion of Elgar's Third
Symphony, we live in an age of reconstructions. The present soloist, David
Owen Norris, has recorded the Piano Concerto which Robert Walker based on
Lambert's sketches. So now is the time to reconstruct Lambert's image based
on a full knowledge of the early works thanks to this recording.
The Concerto starts in epic style with timpani rhythms, syncopations
and immediate energetic statements from the soloist. [listen
- track 6, 0:29-1:00]. Strong stuff. There are bound to be detectable
influences in the style of a nineteen-year-old but these barely detract
from the coherent impression of the four movements played without a break.
Most obviously, perhaps, the second subject material echoes Poulenc, especially
the delightful piano duet sonata (1918) which Lambert has to have played.
[listen - track 6, 1:48-2:24] But Lambert
is able to make much more of this motif than Poulenc had time for and it
crops up in other movements of the Concerto too.
Then the second movement, as a scherzo, is rhythmically derived and sounds
very like Walton, except that the Walton it resembles had not yet been composed.
But one does wonder if Lambert was partly responding to Walton's Sinfonia
Concertante for two pianos, jazz band and orchestra which he completed
in 1923 and then sadly destroyed. [listen - track
Copyright © 6 February 2000 Peter
Dickinson, Aldeburgh, UK
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