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These are all world premiere recordings. In Angela Brownridge, who studied with Leighton at Edinburgh University, the enterprising Cameo Classics label has the ideal interpreter of the composer’s music. Leighton (1929-1988) is perhaps best known for his choral music, though the Second Sonatina (once an ABRSM Grade 8 option) may ring a faint bell with piano teachers.

This concerto, the first of three, dates from Leighton’s own student days but is already expertly written. The outer movements variously recall Rawsthorne, Bliss, possibly even Shostakovich, but the quasi-operatic passion of the slow movement is highly individual. Brownridge’s performance is commanding, and a benchmark for future soloists; she is seriously let down, however, by the recording (congested, totally dead) and the orchestral playing. Some individual wind players shine, but the strings are woefully under strength and wincingly uneasy above the stave. A soloist of this calibre deserved far better, and hopefully she will be invited to re-record the piece under better circumstances, perhaps coupling it with the equally unfamiliar Second Concerto. IP readers, meanwhile, should explore her three-disc set of Leighton’s complete solo piano music, available from Delphian.

In a fiercely male-dominated world, Ruth Gipps (1921-1999) built a brave career as a pianist, oboist, composer and conductor. To merit proper judgment, her romantic and eager-to-please concerto needs far more sumptuous orchestral playing that it gets here. The solo pieces, recorded more comfortably in Croydon’s Fairfield Hall, have attractive Kodály-ish harmonies but only just avoid rambling.

MICHAEL ROUND Read the full review on Agora Classica


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