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Alan BUSH (1900-1995)
Three Concert Studies for piano trio (1947)
Two Easy Pieces for cello and piano (1951)
Two Melodies for viola and piano (1957)
Viola Sonatina (1978)
Concert-Piece for cello and piano (1936)
Summer Valley for cello and piano (1988)
Adam Summerhayes (violin/viola)
Catherine Summerhayes (piano)
Joseph Spooner (cello)
rec 2001 DDD
MERIDIAN CDE 84458 [66.33]


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With the second volume in this series already at edit stage on Richard Hughes' work-desk, Bush's music is undergoing a steadily incremental rebirth in which Meridian is playing a crucial part. Their similar role with the orchestral music of Bernard Stevens (a composer of similar political sympathies) should not be forgotten either. During the Summer of 2002 Claudio reissued the Violin Concerto and Dialectic tapes previously doomed to Hyperion vinyl. Before that there were the Twenty-Four Preludes, the Redcliffe Recording, the organ music on Pipework and the songs on Musaeus.

That said, I suspect that the future of Bush's music will only be unassailable when his most compelling works are recorded: the Busonian Piano Concerto, the Third Symphony Byron and the vigorously attractive opera The Sugar Reapers.

The Three Concert Studies unlike the other works here are not new to disc. They were recorded on a Decca LP. Despite the composer's rather cold description of the music at least two of the three pieces display warm humanity. The second is quietly lyrical and the third (alla bulgara)is a triumph of Eastern European folk rhythms with delicate smilingly lyrical writing interlaced. The 'set' of the themes and sometimes their treatment remind me of Janis Ivanovs' Violin Concerto. The furious Bartókian Moto Perpetuo is impressive but rather icy and ends as abruptly as the Nocturne it precedes. The Two Easy Pieces were designed to please and yet to avoid undue technical challenge. They are certainly pleasing in an easygoing reticently tuneful way. The Two Melodies are of a piece with the Easy Pieces. In none of these is there any sign of the toughness of utterance of the First Symphony (now there's a work that would have upset Krennikhov and Zhdanov). Rather the approach stands in the cooling stream of lyrical miniatures written by Moeran and Bridge. The Dance Melody is related to VW's simplest folk style but with tangy harmonic adventures. Eric Chisholm's Scottish folk-pieces are not far distant nor are Grainger's folk music essays.

We leap forward from the ’fifties to the ’seventies for the Viola Sonatina. Here the manner becomes more serious though still bound up with lyricism this time of the 'Coloured Counties' sort (Howells, RVW). The Lark Ascending is a reference point in both the epilogue and the central Quasi Menuetto. The lyrical writing looks back thirty years also to the quieter contemplations of his Second Symphony 'The Nottingham' - try the Sherwood Forest movement if you can track down an off-air tape.

More than forty years before the Sonatina came the Concert-Piece. Bush was prompted to write the work by the up-rearing of fascism across 1930s Europe. It has more in common with the Moto perpetuo of the Three Concert Studies than with any other work here. A dark epiphany of a piece - a lament [9.35] as well as a depiction of the reason for lamentation. It is reminiscent of the protesting manner of that fine work for cello and orchestra, the Soliloquy by Edmund Rubbra and would be, in orchestral form, an ideal companion to Bloch's Schelomo.

The disc ends with Summer Valley which, with a title like that, reminds us of Michael Head's songs and instrumental pieces (Bush married Head's sister). Summer Valley, though written in 1988, is in the same undemonstrative Anglo-lyrical stream as the middle movement of the Sonatina, the Melodies and the Easy Pieces.

The notes are by John Amis who writes with engaging candour. My only criticism is that Meridian do not tell us where and when these recordings were made.

Meridian's artwork and quality of printing has not, in the past, been of the best. There need be no concerns on that front for this disc. Meridian's quarter century in the business is resoundingly celebrated with this disc.

This is an engaging anthology illustrating Bush's styles from restrained pastoralism to tragic intensity. You will surely also want volume 2 which should emerge within the next twelve months.
Rob Barnett


Volume 2 (due out 2003)

Meditation on a German Song; Lyric Interlude; Raga Melodies; Two preludes and Fugues; Song and Dance; Le Quatorze Juillet; Two Ballads of the Sea; Distant Fields; Spring Woodland and Summer Garden; Meridian CDE 84881

The superb Alan Bush Music Trust site is at:-

Other Alan Bush CD reviews here:-
Redcliffe CD

Claudio CD (Violin Concerto)

Organ Works - Pipework
Musaeus - songs

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