John Ogdon

Tippett: Concerto for double string orchestra; Piano Concerto; Fantasia concertante on a theme of Corelli

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This disc containing a trio of concertos by Michael Tippett is only a mixed success, and unfortunately it leads with the least successful of the three performances. The idea of joining two chamber orchestras for a performance of the composer's Concerto for double string orchestra is ingenious, but it is not especially well executed here. Separately either the Moscow Chamber Orchestra or the Bath Festival Orchestra might have been up to Tippett's vigorous string writing, but at least under the leadership of Rudolf Barshai they are not quite together either in terms of ensemble or intonation, and the result is too often muddled and scrappy. The central performance of the composer's Piano Concerto is by far the best of the three. John Ogdon is a superb soloist who embraces with gusto the work's ardent lyricism and tremendous technical challenges. Ably supported by London's Philharmonia under the leadership of the young Colin Davis, Ogdon turns in what is still regarded as the work's finest recording. The closing performance has its good and less good points. The enthusiasm of the soloists, including Yehudi Menuhin, and the Bath Festival Orchestra cannot be doubted, nor can the enthusiasm of the conductor, the amiable Tippett himself. But energetic and enjoyable as their performance is, it is a bit too ragged and scrappy for repeated listenings. A further word about the quality of EMI's early-'60s stereo recordings is also appropriate. The sound of the two string orchestra pieces, while a bit close, is quite vivid and lifelike. The sound of the Piano Concerto, however, is oddly distant and somewhat blurred. This is particularly regrettable since the performance is so admirable.

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