- Concerto for piano & orchestra in B flat major, Op. 58, F. 108
- Sonata for piano, Op. 72, F. 145
- Concerto for 2 pianos & orchestra in B flat major, F. 110
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Like many 20th-century British composers, Sir Arthur Bliss (1891-1975) has always been highly esteemed in his native country, but his music is seldom performed elsewhere. Yet his works sound more international than provincially English -- there's not a hint of pastoral folk song to be heard on this recording, for instance. Composed for the 1939 World's Fair in New York, his Piano Concerto is a large-scale work that embraces both the virtuoso fireworks and the melodic abundance of the Romantic era, if not its heart-on-sleeve emotions. The pianist Peter Donohoe exercises his considerable technique here in an exciting performance that reveals the composer's full breadth of invention. Bliss's later Piano Sonata (1952) is a perfect foil for the Concerto; without foregoing Romantic touches, it has a rather more brittle and modern sound and a darker mood overall. (In all these respects, it is similar to Samuel Barber's Piano Sonata .) Donohoe is perhaps even more convincing in this introspective score, but he persuades the listener that both of these works deserve to be better known. Martin Roscoe joins Donohoe for a final composition by Bliss, the Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, which underwent several revisions between the 1920s and 1950. This concise concerto clusters an array of ideas into a single movement, but even if it doesn't pack quite the same satisfying punch as a whole, it's no less appealing than the other works featured here -- and the central slow section has a true languorous beauty. All told, this disc is an obvious recommendation for anyone with a penchant for Bliss, but it also provides a thoroughly rewarding first encounter with one of the past century's oft-overlooked musical voices.