Gipps and Shostakovich CD reviews

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE REVIEWS CDS OF PIANO CONCERTOS BY WOMEN BRITISH COMPOSERS, AND A THRILLING SHOSTAKOVICH FOURTH SYMPHONY

BRIGHT, GIPPS: Ward / McLachlan / RLPO / Peebles (Somm Recordings SOMMCD 273) ★★★★★

The CBSO recently performed, to great acclaim, the second symphony of Ruth Gipps who played oboe and cor anglais with the orchestra in the 1940s. This fine recording of her Piano Concerto in G minor (1947) will further enhance the reputation of a neglected all-round musician who was also a concert pianist until injury cut short her career. Murray McLachlan gives full weight to its romanticism – a whiff of Addinsell's 1941 Warsaw Concerto – but also its delicate slow movement, with full-blooded support from The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under Charles Peebles. Gipps' orchestral work Ambarvalia is a lively miniature. The Piano Concerto No.1 in A minor (1888) and Variations for Piano and Orchestra (1910) by Sheffield-born pianist-composer Dora Bright get their premiere recordings with soloist Samantha Ward. These are well-crafted and charming Mendelssohnian works where ardour is kept on a tight leash. The witty Variations is first-class light music.







SHOSTAKOVICH SYMPHONY no.4: London Symphony Orchestra / Noseda (LSO Live CD/SACD LSO0832) ★★★★★

Shostakovich completed his Symphony No.4 in 1936 but withheld it until 1961 knowing it would be loathed by Stalin's music commissars. It's not for the faint-hearted, using his largest orchestral forces to bludgeoning, terrifying (occasionally merciless) effect and it lacks an uplifting finale as supplied in his fifth and seventh symphonies The opening movement is Mahlerian in length and power, shades of the sixth's baleful march, and the third's riotous climax but lacking the latter's joy. An orchestra must be able to supply characterful wind playing (often stratospherically shrill), weighty brass and string playing of breadth and flexibility. The LSO have all these qualities in abundance and their principal guest conductor Gianandrea Noseda drives them on to elicit a thrilling performance, profound but never dragging as Haitink in Chicago (CSO Resound) is inclined to do in the finale. The sound is very up front but suits the work. Highly recommended.

Noman Stinchcombe

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