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Piano Concerto - Bliss - PASC153

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Quick Overview

Noel Mewton-Wood, piano
Utrecht Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Walter Goehr


Recorded in 1952, issued as Concert Hall Society CHS 1167
Matrix nos. E2 KP 6991-1C, E2 KP 6992-1B
Transfer and XR remastering by Andrew Rose at Pristine Audio, March 2009
Cover artwork based on a photograph of Noel Mewton-Wood


Total duration: 37:28
©2009 Pristine Audio

Details

Rare repertoire gloriously realised by Mewton-Wood

His affinity with Bliss clearly demonstrated in superb sound

 

Mewton-Wood gives the performance of his life, a performance full of youthful ardour (and endurance) and seems to rejoice in the formidable difficulties of his part, and so conceals the very fact of their difficulty, and at the same time plays in the slow movement with a remarkable beauty of tone and feeling. He has therefore both the power and the sensitivity needed and is evidently of one mind with the conductor. The orchestra sound, also, as if they were enjoying themselves, and altcgether this is a most exciting and satisfactory affair.

The achievement of the pianist is summed up, in a few pages, in the tremendous bravura of his playing of the cadenza in the first movement—in which Bliss leaves Liszt at the starting-post !—and the simple, restrained playing of the lyrical opening of the slow movement...

from The Gramophone, review, Nov. 1953

Review of this release: Audiophile Audition

 

Notes on the recording:

This fine recording was transferred from a largely excellent copy of the original Concert Hall LP release, generously supplied to Pristine Audio by collector Philippe Bonin, to whom we are again most grateful. The recording itself is an excellent example for its era - our XR remastering has helped further improve the tonal balance to a degree, but working from such a good starting point the benefits are often subtle.

Indeed, the only real defect of the pressing, which is likely to have afflicted most if not all pressings of this recording, was a slight swishing in the left channel of the second side. Naturally this was simple to side-step by using the right channel only, where there was almost no evidence of any similar problem.

What we have also been able to bring to this recording that has been absent from previous issues is the use of Ambient Stereo, which has in this case been particularly successful in opening out the acoustic space around performer and orchestra.

Mewton-Wood was exceptionally highly regarded by the composer, Sir Arthur Bliss. His championing (and recording) of Bliss's Piano Concerto played a major part in Bliss dedicating his Piano Sonata of 1952 to the young Australian pianist. Given the clear feeling for Bliss's music displayed in this superb performance, it is truly a tragedy for music-lovers that Mewton-Wood died before he could commit the Bliss Sonata to vinyl. It seems quite possible that, working together, the two might have brought both works to much greater attention in the concert hall and on disc in the years that followed.

 

 

 

 

Noel Mewton-Wood

biographical notes from Wikipedia, links to more information

 

Noel Mewton-Wood (November 20, 1922 – December 5, 1953) was an Australian-born concert pianist who achieved some fame during his short life.

Born in Melbourne, he studied at the Melbourne Conservatorium until the age of fourteen. After further studies at London's Royal Academy of Music, Mewton-Wood spent time with Artur Schnabel in Italy.

In March 1940 he returned to London for his debut performance at Queen's Hall, performing Beethoven's third piano concerto with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Thomas Beecham. He later performed in France, Germany, South Africa, Poland, Turkey, and Australia.

At the age of thirty-one, Mewton-Wood committed suicide by drinking prussic acid, apparently blaming himself for the death of a friend. The notes written by a friend of Mewton-Wood, John Amis, for the reissue of the Bliss Concerto recording, indicate that Mewton-Wood was gay and was depressed by the recent death of his lover.

Mewton-Wood's The Times obituary of December 7, 1953 described his playing style at his debut performance:

At once his remarkable control and his musicianship were apparent: the ascending scales in octaves, with which the pianist first enters, thundered out with whirlwind power, but he could summon beautiful cantabile tone for the slow movement and the phrasing of the rondo theme was admirably neat for all the rapidity of the tempo; a true understanding of the relationship in concerto between soloist and orchestra, and of the soloist's part in ensemble, betokened the musician, the potential chamber performer.

In addition to Beethoven, Mewton-Wood's repertoire included:

  • Tchaikovsky's three piano concertos, G major sonata, and Concert Fantasy;
  • Busoni's Fantasia contrappuntistica and Piano Concerto;
  • Sir Arthur Bliss's Piano Concerto (as Mewton-Wood was an exponent of this piece, Bliss wrote him a piano sonata);
  • Tippett's song cycle The Heart's Assurance;
  • Hindemith's Ludus tonalis;
  • and works by Britten, Schubert, Liszt, Mahler, Schumann, and Bartók.

He also composed chamber music, a piano concerto, ballet music, and music for the 1944 film Tawny Pippit.

 

Notes from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noel_Mewton-Wood

See also notes on Mewton-Wood at:

 

 

Sir Arthur Bliss

notes from Wikipedia

 

Sir Arthur Edward Drummond Bliss, CH, KCVO (2 August 1891 - 27 March 1975) was a British composer. Born to an American father and English mother, Bliss attended Bilton Grange Preparatory School and Rugby before entering Cambridge University. He was destined to display characteristics of both nations, his profound romanticism balanced by an unquenchable energy and optimism. He began studies at the Royal College of Music under Charles Villiers Stanford, but First World War broke out shortly after his first term and he left school to serve as a Grenadier Guards officer in the field.

With the return of peace, Bliss’s career took off rapidly as a composer of what were, for British audiences, startlingly new pieces, often for unusual ensembles. Among these are a concerto for wordless tenor voice, piano and strings, and Rout for soprano and chamber orchestra, in which the soloist sings phonetic sounds rather than words. Much of his early music shows the influence of Stravinsky and Debussy. A landmark was his Colour Symphony of 1922 which explores the idea of the musical associations of different colours.

From the late 1920s onwards Bliss moved more into the traditional English musical scene with choral works such as Pastoral and Morning Heroes; in the 1930s he wrote the music for the film Things to Come and the ballet Checkmate. Bliss was always an ambitious, prolific composer, and some of his works were clearly intended for a wider international audience than they actually received. The Introduction and Allegro and the Piano Concerto are examples, the concerto being premiered by Solomon at the 1939 New York World's Fair.

During the Second World War Bliss became Director of Music at the BBC, and formed ideas which led to the division of music broadcasting into categories after the war, such as the present day Radios 1 and 3. In 1950 he was knighted and in 1953 he was appointed to succeed Arnold Bax as Master of the Queen's Musick.

By this point in his career, though, it was becoming apparent that Bliss had not attained the level of success he had been aiming for. His opera The Olympians, despite a full-scale production at Covent Garden, was not popular, his oratorio The Beatitudes was forgotten beside Benjamin Britten's War Requiem at the 1962 Coventry Festival, and his cello concerto, written for the Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, was overshadowed by those of Benjamin Britten, Henri Dutilleux and Witold Lutosławski. The concerto received its first London performance from the British cellist Julian Lloyd Webber.

Bliss recorded fine interpretations of several of his major works, but they were not taken up widely by other conductors. His swansong, Metamorphic Variations, a large orchestral work, was first performed in 1972, but not by Leopold Stokowski as Bliss had hoped.

The Leicestershire Schools Symphony Orchestra worked with Sir Arthur Bliss when he conducted them in a performance of his Piano Concerto at the 1970 Cheltenham Festival with Frank Wibaut as soloist. An earlier concert performance of the concerto was also given at Loughborough, again with Sir Arthur Bliss conducting. Later that year, Bliss recorded his Introduction and Allegro with the orchestra for the Argo label. The relationship with the LSSO continued well into 1975 with a new production of his ballet The Lady of Shalott being staged at the Leicester Haymarket Theatre. This occasion was also featured in the television programme Girl in a Broken Mirror.

Since his death Bliss's music has undergone a modest revival on radio and recordings, but his reputation remains insecure despite the personality of his output.

 

Notes from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Bliss

Further information: http://www.arthurbliss.org/

 

Notes on the 24-bit download: Please see this page for test files and further information regarding this format. Although restoration work is done at a sample rate of 44.1kHz, we have upsampled the final 24-bit master to 48kHz for additional replay compatibility of our FLAC download.

Our twenty-four bit FLAC downloads can be replayed in full quality using a standard DVD video player, a DVD writer and an inexpensive piece of PC software - see here for more information about replay from Video DVD discs.

 

 

 

 

Find out more:

 
Third movement - Andante maestoso
(Ambient Stereo version)
 

CD covers to print:
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PASC153 cover

CD-writing cuesheet (save as .cue):
(Use this to split MP3 files - see here)

Cue sheet

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