Simon Callaghan / Martyn Brabbins

The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 73: Coke

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AllMusic Review by James Manheim

British pianist Simon Callaghan has specialized in neglected 20th century piano music, and with this 2017 release, part of the Hyperion label's successful and ongoing Romantic Piano Concerto series, he has turned to the almost completely forgotten Roger Sacheverell Coke, a composer and pianist who bankrolled much of his career out of his hereditary Derbyshire estate and numbered Rachmaninov among his admirers. The three piano concertos here certainly show the influence of Rachmaninov, but Coke seems at times to toy with the listener's expectation of getting retreaded Russian Romanticism: sample the opening of the Piano Concerto No. 4 in C sharp minor, which sounds like pure Rachmaninov only to depart into less heroic gestures almost immediately. That concerto and especially the fragmentary Piano Concerto No. 5 in D minor (Coke was given to destroying some of his own finished works) combine the Rachmaninov idiom with darker, perhaps more personal moods and with variance in the relationship between piano and orchestra; the Piano Concerto No. 5 might have been the concerto that Sibelius never wrote. The recording by Callaghan with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Martyn Brabbins does the work full justice. A commendable revival of work dug out of archives by the pianist himself.

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