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Rachmaninov, Strauss & Dohnányi: Works for Piano & Orchestra

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Catalogue No: SOMMCD 253
Release Date: 05/01/2014
Number of Discs: 1
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Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 1
Richard Strauss Burleske for Piano And Orchestra
Ernest Von Dohnányi Variations on a Nursery Song

Valerie Tryon, Piano
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Jac Van Steen, Conductor

This new release offers a unique combination of three of the most significant virtuoso works for solo piano and orchestra written during the 25 years 1889-1914 in thrilling performances by Valerie Tryon, who celebrates her 80th birthday this year.

Richard Strauss originally composed Burleske in 1886, before he was 20. He had, by then,  attracted considerable attention and had written his first three concertos, of which the Burleske is the last. This one-movement work, full of brilliance and dramatic constant changes of mood, bears the hallmark of his later compositions.  It also bears the influence of Liszt who may be said to have an indirect bearing on each of the composers on this disc. Burleske reflects in many ways, the kind of composition for solo piano and orchestra that was ‘in the air’ at the time — not concertos in the generally accepted three-movement form but works composed as a free-form concertante piece for piano and orchestra like a Lisztian symphonic poem, already an established genre by the mid-1880s.

Rachmaninov’s First Piano Concerto Op. 1 was composed in 1891 and was written when he was only 18. He later revised it, in 1917, and that is the version that is always played today and is recorded here. The first-movement cadenza is the same in both versions, and it gives one a good idea of what a wonderful pianist Rachmaninov was at that age. Valerie Tryon’s performance of these two youthful works is spell-bindingly good, as is her playing of the Variations on a Nursery Song by the Hungarian composer Ernst von Dohnányi, another gifted conductor-composer-pianist. The Dohnányi Variations used to be included every year at the Proms. This is a work full of mock drama, humour and genuine brilliance  — surely it should not have become so neglected in recent years. It contains one of the funniest real jokes in classical music, the orchestra introducing the work as though it is a dramatic, tragic masterpiece, after which the piano comes in with ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’ — the theme on which the variations are based. Valerie Tryon’s performance tingles with life and fun, thanks also to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s and Jac van Steen’s wonderful support.

Valerie Tryon
Valerie Tryon’s career as a concert pianist began while she was still a child. Before she was twelve she had broadcast for the BBC and was appearing regularly before the public on the concert platform. She was one of the youngest students ever to be admitted to the Royal Academy of Music where she received the highest award in piano playing and a bursary which took her to Paris for study with Jacques Février. She has played in most of the major concert halls and appeared with many of the leading orchestras and conductors in Britain. Her career has taken her to North America where she has appeared in such cities as Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Washington, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Los Angeles. She now lives in Canada but spends a part of each year in her native Britain.

Tryon’s repertoire is enormous and ranges from Bach to contemporary composers; it includes more than sixty concertos and a vast amount of instrumental and chamber music. Among British composers, both the late Alun Hoddinott and John McCabe have dedicated works to her.

Valerie has been awarded several distinctions for her services to music. She was an early recipient of the Harriet Cohen Medal. More recently, the Liszt Memorial Medal was bestowed on her by the Hungarian Minister of Culture in recognition of her lifelong promotion of Liszt’s music.

Jac van Steen
Jac van Steen was born in The Netherlands and studied orchestral and choral conducting at the Brabants Conservatory of Music. Since participating, in 1985, in the BBC Conductors’ Seminar led by Sir Edward Downes, he has enjoyed a very busy career as conductor of the best orchestras in The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Switzerland and Germany. These have included the posts of Music Director and Chief Conductor of the National Ballet of the Netherlands, the Orchestras of Bochum and Nürenberg, the Staatskapelle, Weimar, the Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra of Dortmund, Germany,  Musikkollegium Winterthur, Switzerland, and the post of Principal Guest Conductor for several years at the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and from 2013-14, the Prague Symphony Orchestra. In 2014-15 he will assume the position of Principal Guest Conductor of the Ulster Orchestra.

On This Recording

  1. Piano Concerto No. 1: I. Vivace
  2. Piano Concerto No. 1: II. Andante
  3. Piano Concerto No. 1: III. Allegro vivace
  4. Burleske: Burleske in D Minor, TrV 145
  5. Variations on a Nursery Song: Introduction: Maestoso
  6. Variations on a Nursery Song: Theme: Allegro
  7. Variations on a Nursery Song: Variation 1: Poco più mosso
  8. Variations on a Nursery Song: Variation 2: Risoluto
  9. Variations on a Nursery Song: Variation 3: L’istesso tempo
  10. Variations on a Nursery Song: Variation 4: Molto meno mosso (Allegretto moderato)
  11. Variations on a Nursery Song: Variation 5: Più mosso
  12. Variations on a Nursery Song: Variation 6: Ancora più mosso (Allegro)
  13. Variations on a Nursery Song: Variation 7: Walzer: Tempo giusto
  14. Variations on a Nursery Song: Variation 8: Alla marcia: Allegro moderato
  15. Variations on a Nursery Song: Variation 9: Presto (Andante rubato)
  16. Variations on a Nursery Song: Variation 10: Passacaglia: Adagio non troppo
  17. Variations on a Nursery Song: Variation 11: Choral: Maestoso
  18. Variations on a Nursery Song: Finale fugato: Allegro vivace
  19. Variations on a Nursery Song: Tempo del tema: Molto allegro