Victor Davies' "Mennonite Piano Concerto"

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Victor Davies' "Mennonite Piano Concerto"

Post by Lance » Fri May 26, 2006 12:29 am

There must be something in the air because I've been deeply attracted to lesser-known piano concertos of late.

Victor Davies was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 1939. Here's a composer who gives melody and expression to most of the works I've heard of his so far, two CDs on the Campion label. American-trained (Indiana University, one of the best schools in the country for music) his Piano Concerto No. 1, called the "Mennonite Piano Concerto," was composed in 1975, commissioned by the Fast Foundation to mark the 450th anniversary of the founding of the Mennonite faith. Victor Davies draws his inspiration from myriad sources: jazz, rock, pop, and, of course, classical. For this work, Davies utilizes a number of hymns and church tunes that will be immediately recognizeable or familiar to you. But it's all melded together so well—35 minutes in three movements!—you will be nothing if not completely entertained and enriched.

Campion Records issued the disc around 1989 [Campion RRCD 1304]. It is paired with Davies' Good Times Suite for Orchestra." I am told the CD is not in print these days. Hard to imagine since it was one of the hottest selling discs in England and elsewhere at one time. It's around used if you frequent these shops. I found one copy available on the web for £20 + shipping (expensive!).

The Mennonite Piano Concerto has as its soloist, Irmgard Baerg, a very gifted Canadian pianist who gives the work her all. The London Symphony Orchestra is conducted by celebrated conductor/composer, Boris Brott. For me, there seems to be some strange imbalance between piano and orchestra, especially at the beginning of the work. It's almost as if the engineer is playing with the gain control on the piano ... first very subdued, then well-balanced, and back-and-forth it goes. Overall, the sound is a little on the hard (brittle) side (overly-brilliant), which was a problem for compact discs in the 1980s, however, it is still eminently listenable. Besides, it's the only recording of the work ever made.

Highly, highly recommended for something quite beautiful and different in the line of piano concertos. Besides, you will discover another present-day composer who rises above many with his music.
Lance G. Hill

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]


Posts: 545
Joined: Sat May 31, 2003 12:56 pm

Post by Allen » Fri May 26, 2006 1:34 am

Thanks for the recommendation, Lance.

The CD is available at MDT.


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