<< -- 2 -- Ron Bierman INTENSE STYLE
Benjamin Lees fares better in all regards. The original recording was made from a 1964 broadcast and the quality, after Pierian's enhancement, is comparable to many commercial monaural releases from around that time. Pianist Joseph Bloch knew the work well having given its American première seven years earlier. Though better known as a teacher, he gives a thoroughly convincing performance. This later edition of the National Orchestra Association is very near the professional level and conductor John Barnett responds well to the challenge of a forceful soloist. Most importantly the concerto itself is typically well-made and immediately appealing. It is a youthful example of the composer's intense style -- still recognizably Lees, but more overtly romantic and closer in sound than later works to other composers including Prokofiev.
Lees uses roughly the same classical concerto-format found in the Gold concerto, but with sparer themes, more tightly woven development and far stronger rhythms. The first movement begins with a descending four-note figure in the woodwinds that immediately sets a forceful tone. Much of the intensity in Lees' music comes from his economical use of melody, and the ingenious and continuous development of this phrase is a good example. It is merged with additional, more expansive material but insistently returns in varied forms and orchestrations to contribute to the movement's coherence and unity.
Copyright © 19 November 2003
Ron Bierman, San Diego, USA