Britten: Piano Concerto, Op. 13

This page lists all recordings of Piano Concerto, Op. 13, by Benjamin Britten (1913-76) on CD & download (MP3 & FLAC). Generally, more recent releases are listed first, but with priority given to those that are in stock.

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May 2013

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Noel Mewton-Wood & Peter Pears

Noel Mewton-Wood & Peter Pears

BBC recordings released for the first time


Britten:

Piano Concerto, Op. 13

London Symphony Orchestra, Basil Cameron

Bush, A:

Voices of the Prophets

Peter Pears (tenor)

Seiber:

To Poetry

Peter Pears (tenor)


Noel Mewton-Wood (piano)

It is sixty years since the death of Australian pianist Noel Mewton-Wood and as the years pass it seems that his talent may be forgotten by future generations. This could be because he made few commercial recordings. Radio performances were mainly broadcast live in the first half of the twentieth century and only a small portion were recorded for broadcast at a later date. Mewton-Wood died at the age of thirty-one and, therefore, had a very short career, so any broadcasts that add to his recorded legacy are of the utmost importance.

Benjamin Britten gave the premiere of his Piano Concerto at the 1938 Proms, but he revised the work in 1945, specifically the third movement. This version was first performed by Mewton-Wood at the Cheltenham Festival on 2 July 1946 with the composer conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The London premiere was given at the Proms on 2 August 1946. On this occasion the pianist was joined by the London Symphony Orchestra and Basil Cameron. The following December the same forces went into Wembley Town Hall to record it for the BBC Transcription Service.

Pears commissioned two new works from British composers for a recital that he and Mewton-Wood were to give in May 1953 – To Poetry, by Mátyás Seiber and Voices of the Prophets Op.41 by Alan Bush. Four months later, the BBC asked the two musicians to record the works for future broadcast. Pears and Mewton-Wood went to the BBC studios in Maida Vale at 2.30pm on the 25 September 1953 to rehearse and recorded the programme at 4pm.

The very fine BBC recording was broadcast on 9 January 1954, by which time Mewton-Wood was dead.

Toward the end of 1953, having disregarded complaints of stomach pains from his partner William Fedricks, the shock of Fedricks’ sudden death led Mewton-Wood to attempt suicide by taking an overdose of aspirin.

Rescued by friends, but determined to succeed, cyanide was later ingested by Mewton-Wood who was found dead on 5 December 1953 aged only thirty-one. The following year Benjamin Britten wrote his Canticle III: Still falls the rain for a memorial concert which took place at the Wigmore Hall in January 1955.

Sixty years on, it is important to keep Mewton-Wood’s name in the public eye – apart from being an extraordinary pianist, he strove to serve British music and British composers and for that alone he should have a secure place in British musical history.

“Recording captures the vitality and dexterity the pianist brought to the revised version of Britten’s Piano Concerto in 1946” Financial Times, 25th January 2014

“ The mono sound may be no more than average for its vintage...but it's good enough to show off the wonderful clarity and easy athleticism of Mewton-Wood's playing. But it's the pair of song-cycles by Mátyás Seiber and Alan Bush that Mewton-Wood recorded with Peter Pears in 1953 that are especially valuable” The Guardian, 6th February 2014 ***

Testament - SBT1493

(CD)

$17.25

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Britten: Violin Concerto & Piano Concerto

Britten: Violin Concerto & Piano Concerto


Britten:

Violin Concerto in D minor Op. 15

Tasmin Little (violin)

Piano Concerto, Op. 13

1945 version as well as original third movement, ‘Recitative and Aria’

Howard Shelley (piano)


The prolific nature of Benjamin Britten’s operatic and vocal output makes it is all too easy to forget that prior to the phenomenal success of Peter Grimes in 1945, he was primarily known as a composer of vividly orchestrated instrumental music. Tying in with the 100-year anniversary in 2013 of the composer’s birth, we here present two such works, performed by the BBC Philharmonic under Edward Gardner. Tasmin Little and Howard Shelley are the soloists in the Violin Concerto and Piano Concerto, respectively.

These concertos reflect two very different sides to the composer’s character. The Violin Concerto, which Britten completed in 1939, is essentially tragic and weighty in tone, perhaps reflecting his growing concern with the escalation of war-related hostilities. On the other hand, the Piano Concerto, written the previous year, is generally lighter and brighter, more transparent and simpler in style.

On this disc we have recorded the Piano Concerto in Britten’s familiar revision of 1945, but we also include the original third movement, ‘Recitative and Aria’, which Britten replaced with a new and extended movement entitled ‘Impromptu’. Howard Shelley writes of the decision Britten made to revise the concerto: ‘Why he found it necessary to replace the slow movement, I cannot quite understand – as far as I am concerned both options are masterpieces, and with this in mind we have also recorded the original version, which is fantastical and fabulous, jazzy and endlessly dramatic.’

The Violin Concerto was the first composition Britten completed after arriving in the US in 1939. Our soloist, Tasmin Little, writes of the work: ‘One of the miracles of the piece is the way that the structure is conceived as an ongoing journey. Britten does not conform to the usual pattern of the classical concerto... rather the shape of the work emerges organically as each thought leads invariably to the next. A favourite moment of mine is near the end of the first movement where the violins play the opening melody and I weave in and around them with delicate pizzicato.’

“A rapturous disc” Financial Times, 18th May 2013

“This is a desirable Chandos release of two marvellous Britten concertos that deserve to be far better known. The playing from soloists Shelley and Little is exemplary. They are accompanied by the outstanding BBC Philharmonic under Edward Gardner’s sensitively controlled baton.” MusicWeb International, 20th May 2013

“Little’s interpretation strikes me as one of the finest committed to disc...Even though her partnership with Gardner is new in the work, their dramatic and emotional conception is unified — and particularly arresting in the sizzling central movement’s vivace” Sunday Times, 26th May 2013

“Shelley and Edward Gardner create something more mercurial [than Britten's own reading], Gardner conjuring that lithe, high-tension drama he has so successfully achieved with Britten's stage works...We also have a very special reading of the Violin Concerto...Little and Gardner plumb its emotional heart in a performance of great passion and spontaneity.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2013 ****

“Gardner's BBC Phil leads the rough-and-tumble with its sharp-edged wind and brusque brass, and the exuberant Howard Shelley matches then every inch of the way...Little has fewer emotionally warm sounds at her disposal than she does energy and commitment...another strong Britten release from Chandos.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2013

“Gardner starts Britten’s Piano Concerto with amazing ferocity and drive...Shelley relishes the fast tempo when he makes his entrance...white-hot playing from the BBC Philharmonic and close-up, widescreen Chandos sound.” The Arts Desk, 20th July 2013

GGramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - May 2013

Chandos - CHAN10764

(CD)

$17.25

(also available to download from $10.00)

In stock - usually despatched within 1 working day.

Britten: Piano & Violin Concertos

Britten: Piano & Violin Concertos


Britten:

Violin Concerto in D minor Op. 15

Sergej Azizian (violin)

Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra, Osmo Vänskä

Piano Concerto, Op. 13

Annette Servadei (piano)

London Philharmonic Orchestra, Joseph Giunta


Alto - ALC1152

(CD)

$8.00

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Britten: Complete Works for Piano & Orchestra

Britten: Complete Works for Piano & Orchestra


Britten:

Piano Concerto, Op. 13

Diversions for piano (left hand) and orchestra, Op. 21

Young Apollo, Op. 16


The three compositions which comprise Britten’s music for solo piano and orchestra constitute a unique, yet still little explored, part of his output. Here they are brought together in a stunning disc that pays tribute to the great artistry of all involved.

Steven Osborne’s performance of Britten’s Piano Concerto with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Ilan Volkov at the 2007 BBC Proms redefined this often undervalued work in the ears of his listeners, imbuing it with hitherto unsuspected emotional and musical weight; playing the bravura passages with glittering assurance and joie de vivre. The same musicians have put down a benchmark recording here.

Diversions for left-hand piano and orchestra is a gem of a piece, which has rarely been recorded. It is highly virtuosic and incredibly well laid out for the left hand, at times almost in the form of études for piano and orchestra. Britten reaches unexpected levels of emotional intensity, most notably in the Chant and the powerful Allegro.

Seventy years or so after these works were first performed, their freshness and vitality speaks with the same musical truth that Imogen Holst divined in Britten’s work, when, writing to him after attending an early performance of Peter Grimes, she said: ‘You have given it to us at the very moment when it was most needed.’ In revisiting these unjustly neglected early works, and, through performances of matchless brilliance, discovering qualities that were missed or overlooked when they first appeared, we have good cause to echo her sentiments.

“It's the concerto...that is the real draw here, for Osborne's account has such deftness and wit that its only possible rival on disc is the performance by Sviatoslav Richter with Britten conducting.” Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 29th August 2008 ****

“The rapport between soloist and orchestra is often electrifying, especially in their fervent performance of Young Apollo, and the variations in Diversions ("Romance", "March", etc) are well differentiated.” Matthew Rye, The Telegraph, 6th September 2008

“Steven Osborne and Ilan Volkov launch into the Piano Concerto's opening 'Toccata' at a headlong pace… For all the remarkable velocity, the playing has weight and incisiveness too, and Osborne's way with the two central movements is equally sure. Diversions... a beautifully devised single-movement set of variations presents Britten's inventiveness at its most elegant. Osborne and the orchestra do this neglected jewel excellent justice.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2008 ****

“…throughout the disc, Osborne and his colleagues make the best possible case for pieces which have tended to be placed on the outer fringes of the Britten canon.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2008

“Osborne exults in Britten’s dazzlingly pianistic writing, and we get to hear the original 1938 version of the concerto’s third movement, a dazzlingly beautiful Recitative and Aria … a thrilling disc” Sunday Times

“Commissioned as a 24-year-old to compose and perform a piano concerto for the 1938 Proms, Britten played safe. None of the edginess he might have filched from Bartók or Stravinsky, no Bergian angst: instead, the models are Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Ravel, and in these terms he doesn't miss a trick, at least before the finale's rather perfunctory final gallop. Most of the piece takes a genuinely fresh look at pianistic conventions, and Steven Osborne yields nothing to the great Sviatoslav Richter in the punchiness and fine-tuned filigree of his playing. No skating over the surface here, with Ilan Volkov and the BBC Scottish SO adept at teasing out the music's symphonic subtext, as well as its piquant orchestral effects.
Britten replaced the original slow movement in 1945, possibly because it spent too much time in waltz-like regions already visited in the second movement. This disc adds it anyway, alongside two other scores for piano and orchestra.
Young Apollo (1939) was not heard for half a century after its premiere, perhaps discarded by Britten because its fanfare-like material was more effectively deployed in Les illuminations (also 1939). It's a quirky piece, difficult to programme, a euphorically unguarded response to Keats's vision of male beauty in Hyperion.
Diversions is on a much grander scale, its style making even clearer those debts to Mahler which Britten had allowed to surface now and again in the concerto. The multifarious challenges to the single-handed soloist create moments of strong emotional depth and, as throughout the disc, Osborne and his colleagues make the best possible case for pieces which have tended to be placed on the outer fringes of the Britten canon. The recordings, made in Glasgow's Henry Wood Hall, have ample depth of sonority and vividness of colour.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“Stunning playing by Steven Osborne and the BBC Scottish Orchestra under Ilan Volkov: Britten’s early piano works sparkle with freshness and vitality.” Maurice Millward, Presto Classical, March 2014

GGramophone Awards 2009

Best of Category - Concerto

Hyperion - CDA67625

(CD)

$17.25

In stock - usually despatched within 1 working day.

Britten: Piano Concerto, Op. 13, etc.

Britten:

Piano Concerto, Op. 13

(including both original and revised Third Movement)

Joanna MacGregor (piano)

Overture to Paul Bunyan

(arr. Colin Matthews, 1977)

Johnson over Jordan Suite

(arr. Paul Hindmarsh, 1990)


Naxos - 8557197

(CD)

$9.25

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Britten - Violin Concerto and Piano Concerto

Britten - Violin Concerto and Piano Concerto


Britten:

Piano Concerto, Op. 13

Sviatoslav Richter

Violin Concerto in D minor Op. 15

Mark Lubotsky


Decca - E4173082

(CD)

$12.50

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Britten: Piano Concerto & Diversions

Britten: Piano Concerto & Diversions


Britten:

Piano Concerto, Op. 13

Sinfonia da Requiem, Op. 20

Diversions for piano (left hand) and orchestra, Op. 21


Jacques Abram (piano) & Julius Katchen (piano)

Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra, Benjamin Britten

Jacques Abram and Julius Katchen give first performances of Britten’s two works for piano and orchestra and the composer directs the Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra in an early recording of his Sinfonia da Requiem.

Heritage - HTGCD244

(CD)

$11.75

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Britten and Ireland Piano Concertos

Britten and Ireland Piano Concertos


Britten:

Piano Concerto, Op. 13

Ireland:

Piano Concerto in E flat major


rec. 7-10 June 2006, Symfonien, Aalborg, Denmark

“Overall an imaginative coupling, well recorded, and Strong, little-known on CD, is a pianist to watch.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2007

Classico - CLASSCD704

(CD)

$19.75

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Copland & Britten: Piano Concertos

Copland & Britten: Piano Concertos


Britten:

Piano Concerto, Op. 13

Copland:

Piano Concerto


Chandos Collect - CHAN6580

Download only from $10.00

Available now to download.

British Music Collection - Benjamin Britten

British Music Collection - Benjamin Britten


Britten:

Piano Concerto, Op. 13

Sviatoslav Richter (piano)

Violin Concerto in D minor Op. 15

Mark Lubotsky (violin)


“Just after Britten's performances were released on LP in 1971, the composer admitted with some pride that Sviatoslav Richter had learned his Piano Concerto 'entirely off his own bat', and had revealed a Russianness that was in the score.
Britten was attracted to Shostakovich during the late 1930s, when it was written, and the bravado, brittleness and flashy virtuosity of the writing, in the march-like finale most of all, at first caused many to be wary of it, even to think it somehow outside the composer's style. Now we know his music better, it's easier to accept, particularly in this sparkling yet sensitive performance.
The Violin Concerto dates from the following year, 1939, and it, too, has its self-conscious virtuosity, but it's its rich nostalgic lyricism which strikes to the heart and the quiet elegiac ending is unforgettable. Compared to Richter in the other work, Mark Lubotsky isn't always the master of its hair-raising difficulties, notably in the Scherzo, which has passages of double artificial harmonics that even Heifetz wanted simplified before he would play it (Britten refused), but this is still a lovely account. Fine recordings.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

Building a Library

First Choice - February 2010

Decca British Music Collection - 4737152

(CD)

$9.50

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