The trumpeter Ole Edvard Antonsen plays two blazing quick movements with zip around a morose testimonial to Shostakovich...the saxophonist Nobuya Sugawa quotes Berg and hints at the Pink Panther with his misty, sore-throat tone. Rundell conducts with precision. Gregson's concerti - he plans one for every instrument - are already an exciting collection.
Rick Jones, The Times, 7/19/2008
If one of the touchstones of enduring worth in clasical music is the ability to keep in touch with the popular language of the time - and I for one believe it is - then Edward Gregson's music is going to be valued long after the more esoteric creations of today are consigned to the museum.
Never simplistic, he is aware of a broad culture - and a brilliant craftsman in writing for the orchestra. These three concertos (all premier recordings) make that clear.
They come in chronological order: the one for trumpet was written in 1983 and is full of jagged, lively short motifs that Gregson works so effectively into engaging paragraphs. Something of a demonstration piece for the instrument, it also creates a world of mysterious beauty in its slow movement which recurs in that of the piano concerto. The latter, in its outer movements, takes on more intense rhythmic patterns, too, which really come to the fore in the saxophone work (the newest), a fascinating exploration of the subtlety and power of its protagonist.
It hardly needs saying that with the BBC Philharmonic and these soloists, and Clarke Rundell's sure guiding hand, the performances are first class.
Robert Beale, Manchester Evening News, 7/18/2008
For the distinguished British composer, educationalist and academic Edward Gregson the concerto form has long stimulated his imagination and provided an excellent creative medium. His particular affinity for intertwining the soloistic potential of wind and brass instruments (but also strings, piano and percussion) into the larger orchestral tapestry is well documented, and his instinct for drama, colour and succinct effect is thoroughly constituted.
The Trumpet Concerto...is a generous, 'classically' proportioned work that, in a sense, unites the forces of the trumpet and timpanist in opposition to the strings. From the opening motif, a vigourous and pithy statement, it is clear that this is going to be a rhythmically charged and abundantly contrasted concerto, demanding immense courage and finesse from the soloist...
The slow movement is especially inventive in its assembly of plaintive melodies and the music's more earnest motivations...which leads logically to the finale, a movement opulent in contrast and virtuosity. The plentiful scale-like lines that enswathe the soloist's passages, always crisp and vividly captured here, generate a strong sense of tension between the solo instrument and strings, and the work as a whole succeeds in powerfully representing the trumpet's lyrical as well as rumbustious temperament.
The Piano Concerto, Homages,...at once illuminates the multiple levels on which the work might be appreciated. Flavours of Bartók, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Khachaturian and Prokofiev fire up the taste-buds in a work brimming with ideas. A near identical choice of orchestration to Stravinsky's Concerto for piano and wind instruments of 1924 lends Gregson's concerto a distinctly poetic and piquant flavour, the addition of a soprano saxophone further complementing the palette. The Passacaglia middle movement really shows his individual voice, however much in resonance with Rachmaninov or Poulenc this music undoubtedly is, while the outer movements sustain a pulsating rhythmic drive that calls to mind Malcolm Arnold tinged with John Ireland - an astoundingly well-assembled work.
The Saxophone Concerto...is for me the most compelling and important work of the three here. Gregson's expressiveness really comes across, the solo writing calculated to haul out every morsel of versatility Sugawa has to offer. Of course, there are contrasts and bold shifts in mood, but it is the skill in conveyancing the ear from one domain to the next that is so strongly persuasive. Gregson likened the first movement to a cityscape, its jazzy interjections wonderfully setting off the lyrical contours. The slow movement is a treatise in colour management...while the energetic finale further explores the composer's adaptability and awareness of the saxophone as a solo voice.
Mark Tanner, International Record Review, 9/1/2008
The Trumpet Concerto is full of energy and sparkle too, but it too has an elegiac, haunting soliloquy for a slow movement, followed by a vibrant rondo-capriccio finale. Perhaps most remarkable of all is the Saxophone Concerto, a dazzling cornucopia of ideas and jazzy dance episodes, even reaching pandemonium at times, but again with a lyrical core and another haunting slow movement. It opens with the soloist, almost sylph-like, magically distanced. But after the gently "floating" slow movement, at the climax of the moto perpetuo finale, the work creates a great, life-enhancing tune, thrusting forward joyously, to close the concerto exultantly. This would surely bring the house down at a Prom!
Ivan March, Gramophone Magazine, 9/1/2008
Edward Gregson has made a speciality of concertos, and has a flair for exploring the character of the solo instrument in new and appealing ways. Ole Edvard Antonsen is a virtuosic soloist in the Trumpet Concerto which boasts a deeply felt slow movement. Perfhaps the finest work is the Saxophone Concerto, full of exciting tone-colours and catering fro Nobuya Sugawa's amazing skills.
Michael Kennedy, Sunday Telegraph, 7/20/2008