MusicWeb International

This piece, I’m sure, will come as something of a discovery for many people. Representation in the catalogues has been sparse, to say the least. Solomon, no less, gave the première in 1939. His recording (originally on HMV C3348/52) most recently surfaced on EMI Great Recordings of the Century (CDH7 63821-2). Philip Fowke has also taken it into the studios (with RLPO/Atherton, originally on Unicorn DKP9006). Barnard’s performance (originally issued in 1962 on HMV ASD499) has been lovingly transferred and remastered by Leslie Craythorn. Trevor Barnard is a British pianist who moved first to the USA and then to Australia. His playing is tremendously committed and he copes well with the many virtuoso demands Bliss forces on him. There is a great Romantic sweep to the first movement: the orchestra (inspired under Sargent) obviously enjoys letting its hair down. Although the opening of the Adagietto could easily be film music, Barnard’s tender phrasing successfully avoids any suggestion of parody. The slow movement has distinctly Lisztian overtones, especially when a solo cello is accompanied by piano filigree. Throughout, the orchestral detail revealed by Craythorn’s transfer is little short of miraculous. Barnard’s variety of touch comes to the fore in the last movement also, the effect almost spectral at times. Despite the low playing time, this CD comes wholeheartedly recommended.

—Colin Clarke