Beethoven; Vaughan Williams

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven; Vaughan Williams
LABELS: Edition Records
WORKS: Beethoven: Violin Concerto; Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending
PERFORMER: Sinfonietta Riga/Thomas Gould (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: EDN1058

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Although the members of the Sinfonietta Riga play on modern instruments, in the opening tutti of the Beethoven there’s a brightness to their sound, helped by the colourful recording. The band is relatively small but produces a muscular sound: the strings have bite and there’s a sense of individuality and personality in the wind playing. Thomas Gould keeps this introductory section rhythmically tight, which makes his flexible approach to the cadenza-like solo entry a telling contrast. Elsewhere he mostly moves the music along: he might have lingered a little more on some notes to bring greater shape to the phrasing, and I wonder if this is because he’s dividing his attention between being soloist and conductor. This may be why the ensemble wobbles ever so slightly at times, but, given that the recording was taken from live performances, it’s pretty solid.

In the Larghetto, on the other hand, Gould milks the music too much for my taste, with rhythmic distortions that tend to undermine the underlying pulse and direction, and not quite enough tonal variety to justify it. The final rondo is lithe and impetuous though, and there’s a real sense of joy in the music-making, with the orchestra again punching above its weight.

Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending is affectionately performed, and the improvisatory nature of the solo violin line suits Gould’s temperament, with the faster central section buoyant and sprightly. Other soloists have brought more tonal warmth to the piece’s final notes, but the overall span of the piece is convincing and engaging.

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Martin Cotton