Born in the UK, pianist, conductor and composer David Stanhope (b. 1952) has been based in Australia for many decades. His myriad conducting and recording credits include operas, ballets and soundtracks, notably the Australian classic Babe. A formidable pianist, Stanhope also plays French horn and bass trombone and is particularly renowned as an award-winning brass ensemble composer.

David Stanhope

Of late, Stanhope has released a series of albums using virtual orchestras, drawing on digital sound libraries, as a cost-effective means of recording and publicising neglected compositions that would, he argues, otherwise remain unheard. Australian Premières Volume 2 presents four works recorded this way but featuring live soloists. The Concerto for Solo Percussion by David Morgan (b. 1932) is structured in two parts consisting of six short contrasting movements and was written for celebrated South Australian-based percussionist Ryszard Pusz, who performs it here. In addition, Pusz is the featured soloist in the jazz-inflected Concerto for Marimba/Vibraphone by Eric Bryce (1932-2007), which he also commissioned.

A stark contrast to these two vibrantly rhythmic works is Medea, written for string orchestra by Robert Constable (b.1947) and featuring Dimity Hall (violin) and Julian Smiles (cello) as excellent soloists. This gradually unfolding, hypnotic work (think Arvo Pärt’s Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten) is certainly deserving of a more fitting resurrection than with not-quite-convincing sound library strings (Hall and Smiles aside, of course). Completing the program is Andrew Ford’s (b. 1957) piano concerto tribute to John Lennon, Imaginings, from 1991, with Stanhope as soloist.

Stanhope’s recordings are an excellent initiative and his quest to provide an avenue out of obscurity for these works laudable, but a digital release rather than CD would perhaps be more appropriate.

Title: Australian Premieres Volume 2
Works: Music by David Morgan, Andrew Ford, Robert Constable and Eric Bryce
Performers: Concerto for Solo Percussion, Concerto for Marimba/Vibraphone, Medea Ryszard Pusz perc, David Stanhope & His Orchestra

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