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Ernest BLOCH (1880-1959)
Concerto Symphonique for piano and orchestra (1946-48) [39.30]
Scherzo Fantasque for piano and orchestra [8.55]
Concerto Grosso No. 2 (1952) [20.03]
Micah Yui (piano)
London SO/David Amos
rec June 1990, CTS Studios, Wembley Park, London, England, ADD


Only LR-826CD, LR848-CD and LR-851CD are listed on the Laurel site as currently available. No doubt an e-mail to Laurel's John Gilbert will confirm the position.

This was not the first commercial recording of Bloch's Concerto Symphonique. That credit goes to Margaret Mitchell on an intermittently accessible Vanguard CD (4052). I have not heard that recording so cannot compare it. In any event, with the recent tragic demise of Seymour Solomon, the Omega family (Everest and Vanguard) have disappeared from view - I hope that this is only temporary.

The Concerto is a work of serious mien: very much a symphony with a feisty solo piano. In this it has a kinship with Brahmsí First Piano Concerto. In fact a number of gestures in the Bloch work seem to be a direct tribute to Brahms. Marry this voices from Liszt's Totentanz and Bax's Symphonic Variations (1916) and you have some general sense of a work which is striving and indomitable, swarthily decorative, hieratic and grandiloquent. Though different in style I could loosely group this with Bliss's Piano Concerto (a work still awaiting a satisfactory recording). Micah Yui is every bit the master of her art and craft. Hers is not a light approach; she has the leonine pesante of Cécile Ousset and the rampant storminess of Argerich.

The other concertante work here is the Scherzo Fantasque. I was expecting a light confection - perhaps something like the famous Litolff scherzo but in fact it is a sort of scorched analogue of Nights in the Gardens of Spain, Ravel's Skarbo and Bax's Winter Legends. The LSO are in rattlingly good form; listen to the rapping and barking horns caught in full flight [8.27] and the distinctly Mahlerian swirl at 06.08.

The Concerto Grosso No. 2 is for strings alone. Finzian moments are few but there is serenity here and this is lovingly carried by the string quartet of Ashley Arbuckle (leader of the LSO), Neil Watson (principal, second violins), Brian Clarke (principal viola) and Rod McGrath (principal cello). As you might expect there are some Corelli-like passages but more often this ruddy-cheeked music recalls Holst's Brook Green. The music is completely devoid of neo-classical sterility and is at ease with serene repose. There are moments paralleling Mahler's adagietto from the Fifth Symphony.

Herschel Burke Gilbert's Laurel label have done more than any other for Bloch. Collectors with enquiring minds and a taste for twentieth century romantic struggle should hunt down this disc. This is probably most easily done via the Laurel website (details below).

Rob Barnett


Violin Concerto, Abodah, Nuit Exotique, Mélodie, Suites 1 and 2 [Mischa Lefkowitz (violin), LPO/David Freeman]
String Quartet No. 1 LR-820CD
String Quartet No. 2 etc LR-826CD
String Quartets Nos. 3 and 4 etc LR-841CD
String Quartet No. 5 etc LR-852CD
Piano Quintets Nos 1 and 2 [Howard Karp (piano)] LR-848CD
[all with Pro Arte Quartet]
Violin Sonatas Nos 1 and 2 [Yukiko Kamei (violin); Irma Valecillo (piano)] LR-821CD

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