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With the lushness of a film soundtrack and a dollop of Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky ballets, Hans Gál’s Piano Concerto is also a ruminating wander through a sprightly English sonic landscape. It was composed in 1948, by which time Gál (1890-1987) had already dwelt in the land of Vaughan Williams for a decade, including internment as an enemy alien near Liverpool and on the Isle of Man. Despite these refugee hardships, the opening movement, marked Allegro energico ma non troppo, is high-spirited.

Briggs, born in 1972, is a student of Denis Matthews and plays in a piano duet with James Lisney as well as in the Anton Stadler Trio, Trio Melzi, Clarion 3 and a duo with Janet Hilton. Her deft collaborative skills are useful in this concerto, where the orchestra often plays the major role. Orchestrated with variety and intelligence, this digressive work’s Mendelssohnian piano cadenzas sound like mere displacement activities awaiting the re-entrance of the full ensemble. The Romanticism of Gál’s solo piano works (recorded by Martin Jones on Nimbus 5751) remains here, but the composer’s dry wit has somehow vanished. A mildly wistful second movement Adagio abstains from tragic moods, reaching instead for staunch, stiff-upper-lip resolve; and the final Allegretto vivace echoes Percy Grainger in a manic mood. The Royal Northern Sinfonia led by Kenneth Woods are sympathetic interpreters in this world premiere recording.

Mozart’s Concerto K482 is given an alternately crisp and melting reading, conducted by Royal Northern Sinfonia leader Bradley Creswick. Their clear and straightforward, rather than dramatic, approach will not erase memories of previous landmark recordings, yet has its charms.

BENJAMIN IVRY Read the full review on Agora Classica


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