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Vaughan Williams and Delius: Piano Concertos Piers Lane (piano), RLPO / Vernon Handley (EMI Eminence 5 65742). Bryn Terfel: The Vagabond Bryn Terfel (baritone), Malcolm Martineau (piano) (DG 445 946 2).
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The Independent Culture
Vaughan Williams and Delius: Concertos

Imagine Delius imagining he's Liszt - finding the style but losing the plot. That's the Piano Concerto for you. The narrative comes and goes, the joinery doesn't bear too much scrutiny, tiny revelations sit shoulder to shoulder with the awkward and the inept. So why do I love it so much? Because the rhapsody lingers on. Because there are pages here as glorious as anything in Delius. Because everything that's wrong with it is somehow right with it. Even the corniest moments stay with you: a sunburst of horns buttressed by vulgar piano chordings - a dubious apotheosis for the concerto's noblest theme. Lane, Handley and the RLPO are full-on for it - all of it.

More fatal flaws in the Vaughan Williams, but again a heart of gold: a pivotal Romanza whose lovely theme grows out of a single note in search of others. A kind of "Nights in the Gardens of Gloucester". Finzi's Eclogue for piano and strings is what it is - cool, calm and collected - and could go on for ever if it weren't to stop. Lane sounds like he wishes it would... go on for ever. Me too. Just one more ravishing suspension, one more interrupted cadence, please. ES

Bryn Terfel: The Vagabond

Bryn Terfel is magnanimous in victory. Having knocked us dead with spectacular Welsh rugby colours at last year's Last Night of the Proms, he goes on to record four very English song-cycles - and very beautifully too. The sound of the voice is commanding enough, but Terfel's sensitivity to words and moods is equally exceptional, and when the word setting is as fine as in Finzi's Shakespeare songs, the gains are obvious. I'm not so sure about his ghostly whisper in Butterworth's "Is my team ploughing?" but that's the only song where the manner misfires.

His voice is worlds away from the light English baritone so often associated with this repertoire (and how often is it so poetically accompanied?), but I like the added expressive weight: songs like Butterworth's "Bredon Hill" really benefit. There's a lot more to this music than Anglo-Saxon parlour platitudes - here's the proof. SJ

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