Hugh Wood: Piano Concerto Op. 31 & Lou Harrison: Piano Concerto with Selected Orchestra

Hugh Wood’s exhilarating, genre-defying piano concerto was premiered by Joanna MacGregor at the 1991 Proms, to huge acclaim. Here paired with Lou Harrison’s remarkable, gamelan-infused concerto, first performed by Keith Jarrett.

Another welcome CD, this time of Hugh Wood’s recent Piano Concerto brilliantly played by the pianist for whom it was written, Joanna MacGregor. She was a student of Wood’s at Cambridge and the composer has tried to put something of her personality and musical attributes into the concerto. The extrovert character of the outer movement is, he says, a response to her platform manner and athletic technique while the more lyrical music reflects the gentler side of her personality. There are also jazzy elements deriving from the use of an old Nat King Cole number, Sweet Lorraine, which pervades the whole work. These may be odd confessions coming from a composer who is an unrepentant serialist, but behind the human face of his music beats a romantic heart….The concerto is in the classical three-movement form with a very beautiful slow movement, marked Adagio mesto, and a lively toccata-like finale which fairly zips along. While it is the remarkable pianism of Joanna MacGregor that catches the ear, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, under Andrew Davis, prove themselves to be able partners. Ultimately, though, it is the concerto itself that lingers in the mind.
Gramophone Magazine

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