PETER DICKINSON (b.1934): Violin Concerto, Merseyside Echoes (Chloe Hanslip [violin], BBC National Orchestra of Wales; Clark Rundell. World Premiere Recordings), Piano Concerto (Howard Shelley [piano], Organ Concerto (Jennifer Bate [organ], BBC Symphony Orchestra; David Atherton. Original 1987 EMI and 1991 Albany releases).
Catalogue Number: 12Q056
Reference: HTGCD 276
Description: Three concerti of stunning originality and diversity of content, instantly recognizable throughout as springing from the same versatile imagination. Partly as a result of his admiration for Ives, Dickinson became fascinated with the idea of the effect of hearing several completely different types of music simultaneously or in close succession, with constantly shifting focus or foreground-background relationships between them, a process he calls 'style modulation'. The term 'eclectic' doesn't begin to do justice to the resulting style, the musical equivalent of the polyglot poetry of MacDiarmid or Pound; a tremendously versatile vocabulary in which almost anything can be said with an infinite range of nuance and any degree of emphasis. It takes a bit of getting used to, but the expressive dividends are enormous. By the time popular idioms, jazz, gloriously sweeping neo-romanticism and unrepentant modernism of every stripe have been combined in a deliriously experimental alchemist's brew, the results can veer in an instant from unabashedly popular to layered textures to rival the wildest effusions ever to emerge from Darmstadt - and whenever one of these wild juxtapositions of style or content occurs, the music somehow manages always to do exactly what you wanted it to, but could never have anticipated. All three concerti follow the same basic scheme; a memorable gesture or theme is introduced; a series of episodes ensues in which it is developed, presented in different musical styles, combined or embellished with (often wildly different or stylistically 'incompatible') material, and punctuated by contrasting interludes. A massively impressive climax is attained which subsides into a final 'farewell' coda. The Piano Concerto juxtaposes a blues, a rag and a dirge, in various guises, as principal themes for the work; the Organ Concerto also uses a blues, of complicated provenance - Dickinson's setting of Byron, based on an harmonic progression by Ravel, vastly slowed down. The Violin Concerto has a serious extramusical 'theme'; it was written in memory of violinist Ralph Holmes, with whom Dickinson worked extensively as pianist, and uses a musical monogram based on his name and an excerpt from Beethoven's 'Spring' sonata, reworked in various forms. Merseyside Echoes is similar but more straightforward, its imposing fanfares incongruously leading to delicious Beatles pastiches. That this glorious piece of elevated popular culture has never made it into the Last Night of the Proms is a serious omission.