This CD featuring piano works by two closely related (musically that is) composers of the last century includes some very rare but extremely fine pieces showcasing the convincing talents of both Rawsthorne and Stevens, both of who unfortunately still remain on the fringes of the British musical establishment.
Alan Rawsthorne (1905-1971) is chiefly known for his orchestral works including three impressive symphonies but among his extended output one finds mainly works for solo piano that deserve better recognition. The works on this programme date from the early part of his career with the exception of the 1967 Ballad, which is considered as an impassioned epilogue to his many achievements in the genre.
Bernard Stevens (1916-83) like his older contemporary, also excelled in creating many praiseworthy orchestral and chamber pieces, yet his most striking compositions were reserved for the piano, such as the Sonata, Op. 25 and the "Giles Farnaby" Fantasia, Op. 22 which both feature on this release. The 5 Inventions, Op. 14 are also of special significance. Composed in 1950, the set is dedicated to James Gibb, the performer on this recording, who also premièred the work in May of the same year.
This is music written through one of the most turbulent periods of British history (1938-54), but you have to look between the surfaces to discover the real substance of what both composers are trying to communicate. Gibb's searching performances highlight his unusual knowledge of these pieces and there is much in his playing that one can admire and enjoy. This is definitely another valuable addition to Lyrita's British discography.
Copyright © 2008, Gerald Fenech