BERNARD RANDS (b.1934): Piano Concerto (Jonathan Biss [piano], BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra; Markus Stenz), Music for Shoko: Aubade (Robert Walters [cor anglais], Stephen Rose, Jeffrey Zehngut [violins], Joanna Patterson Zakany [viola], Charles Bernard [cello]), Canti del Sole for Tenor and Orchestra (Stephen Chaundy [tenor], BBC National Orchestra of Wales; William Boughton.
Catalogue Number: 06U061
Description: Rands is a significant figure, who early on absorbed multiple influences of the Darmstadt avant-garde, never wholly subscribed to any of them, and who, by the time the earliest work here was written, had arrived at a style which while being by no means 'simple' is nonetheless clear and direct of utterance and capable of great dramatic expression. His use of tonality is of a notably extended sort, but his harmonic sense is impeccable and his use of tonal harmony highly effective; he eschews altogether the extended methods of the avant-garde. The Piano Concerto is a recent work (2013) commissioned for the composer's 80th birthday. The first movement opens with an imposing gesture, which is then explored with increasing elaboration and complexity in a dialogue of equals between piano and orchestra. The middle movement is marked "slow, quiet, vague and mysterious", all of which it is; an extended nocturne, not so much of the sinister Romantic type with night terrors and shadows flitting about, but a mysterious but benign night landscape. The finale, which gives the impression of more overt tonality than the first movement, is mercurial and playful, though typically of Rands, not a conventional virtuoso race to the finish but more of a lively and intricate game played between soloist and orchestra. Canti del Sole is major nature-cycle, describing the cycle of dawn to dusk but in the choice of poems and the nature of the music, clearly as an allegory of a life cycle from birth to death. The diverse poets - D.H. Lawrence, Montale, Rimbaud, Celan and others - are set in a continuous sequence, the texts selected to form the overarching narrative and musical shape of the work. The energy of youth gives way to the ecstatic celebration of life in maturity, shadowed by the increasing realisation of the inevitability of mortality - the fury of Wilfred Owen's "Futility", the fading crespuscular colors of an exquisite setting of Baudelaire's "Harmonie du soir" - and then night falls swiftly. Aubade (2017) is a transcription of the slow movement of the composer’s Cor anglé concerto; an atmospheric miniature tone poem, more pastoral and beholden to Rands' English roots than the other works here. Texts and translations included.