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Alan RAWSTHORNE (1905-1971)
Symphonic Studies (1938) [20:11]
Overture: Street Corner (1944) [5:32]
Piano Concerto No. 1 (1942) [20:10]
Piano Concerto No. 2 (1951) [31:24]
Malcolm Binns (piano)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir John Pritchard (Studies; Street Corner)
London Symphony Orchestra/Nicholas Braithwaite
rec. 1977, 1979. ADD
LYRITA SRCD.255 [77:26]

Sobriety of presentation – it takes confidence to make this choice in a world of attention-grabbing design coups. Lyrita’s assertive but understated style goes with competence and a well placed confidence that they have something substantial to offer which does not require lurid colours or wild experimentation. In that sense Lyrita can be compared with Matt Walters’ First Edition - a most treasurable label. The rather matte effect of the covers here is consistent with the design of the Lyrita LP sleeves. In fact a number of the new CDs have used the LP designs or details from them e.g. Hadley/Finzi and Ireland volume 1.

This generous Rawsthorne disc is packed tight with three major works and the most famous of his concert overtures. I recall Symphonic Studies from the CFP LP which coupled the Lambert recording of the Rawsthorne work with the Goehr recording (now on NMC) of Tippett’s Concerto for Double String Orchestra. Pritchard delivers a most successful performance and he is recorded by the Lyrita team with typical mastery and with a sympathetic ear or microphone leaning towards the horns. It’s a work often in a lather of emotional turmoil but it’s too easy to overlook the more reflective moments such as the Lento (tr. 5). This recording was first issued as a coupling on LP (SRCS 90) with the Rawsthorne Symphony No. 1 a work now on SRCD291 with the other two Rawsthorne symphonies. This version of the Symphonic Studies is a shade more headlong on Lyrita than its comparator on Naxos. The ebullient, brusque, breezy and blowsy Street Corner overture was commissioned in 1944 by ENSA alongside such other joyous overtures as Moeran’s Overture to a Masque. The Rawsthorne was first issued on LP on Lyrita SRCS 95. The First Piano Concerto in its outer movements has the brittle brilliance of Prokofiev. Interesting that the composer builds in echoes of the Symphonic Studies at 3:35 in the first movement. After a chilly middle movement the finale is an out-and-out tarantella ending with a cheeky but perfectly weighted smiling flourish. The middle movement has a chilly character. Once again, this time in the Piano Concerto No. 2, Rawsthorne builds in a reminiscence of the Symphonic Studies – listen to it in the bass at 1:47 onwards and elsewhere. This Second Piano Concerto has a more Brahmsian sense of heroism and tragedy than the First Concerto which although written in the 1930s always sounds to me like a refugee from the 1920s. Rawsthorne’s trademark awkward cuss writing is in full evidence throughout and this is emphasised by Malcolm Binns. These are fine recordings although for even more impressive sound do try the Chandos and Naxos versions.

The booklet notes are drawn from the original LP sleeves and are by Alan Frank, Hugo Cole and John McCabe.

The transfers been accomplished with typical professionalism and care. You will not be disappointed if you know the original vinyls.

A generously packed and brilliant Rawsthorne collection which make a perfect complement to the Lyrita Rawsthorne symphonies. Add a few of the Naxos discs - Cello Concerto and the two Violin Concertos - and you have the makings of a fine Rawsthorne shelf.

Rob Barnett

The Lyrita Catalogue

Companion to Symphonies SRCD291
Compare Naxos recording of two piano concertos


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