Thursday 26 April 2018

CD Review (The Straits Times, April 2018)

COKE Piano Concertos Nos.3, 4 & 5
BBC Scottish Symphony / Martyn Brabbins
Hyperion 68173 / ****1/2

The music of almost-forgotten English pianist-composer Roger Sacheverell Coke (1912-1972) is destined for an unexpected but long-awaited revival. 

Young British pianist Simon Callaghan presents world premiere recordings of three of his piano concertos, which deserve more than an occasional airing. Coke was a contemporary of Benjamin Britten who shunned 20th century modernisms and atonalism, but looked back to the late Romantic musings of Rachmaninov.

Thus there is little surprise that Coke's Third Piano Concerto (1938) and Fourth Piano Concerto (1940) bear certain resemblances to music of the Russian emigre whom he counted as a friend. Both play for about half-an-hour each, No.3 sounding like British film scores showpieces influenced by Rachmaninov, such as Hubert Bath's Cornish Rhapsody or Richard Addinsell's Warsaw Rhapsody. No.4 is a far darker and morose work with an opening redolent of that in Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concerto.

Coke's Fifth Piano Concerto (1947/50) exists only as a slow movement, which is for most part wistful and melancholic. Callaghan's very convincing performances can scarcely be bettered and one looks forward to the eventual discovery of its outer movements and earlier 'lost' concertos.    

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