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Bloch • Elgar: Cello Concerto (arr. viola) etc

Timothy Ridout (viola); BBC Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins (Harmonia Mundi)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Bloch • Elgar
Bloch: Suite for Viola and Orchestra; Elgar: Cello Concerto (arr. Tertis)
Timothy Ridout (viola); BBC Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins
Harmonia Mundi HMM902618   58:58 mins


Elgar’s ‘Viola Concerto’ – a transcription by Lionel Tertis of the Cello Concerto to suit the viola’s octave-higher pitch – had the composer’s approval. He conducted its first performance in 1930, with Tertis as soloist. The English violist Timothy Ridout uses Tertis’s arrangement, with some tweaks of his own. Ridout’s account of the opening movement is full of richly rhapsodic playing, although the viola suggests more of a wistful musing than the deeper, elegiac contemplation possible on the cello.

The tricky scherzo can easily lead to scrappiniess on the cello, and Ridout scores here with his brilliantly nimble fingerwork and precise note-separation. His slow movement is heartfelt, and the finale crackles with insightful, immaculately executed solo playing. For all Ridout’s excellence, however, it’s possible to miss the cello’s quite different emotional temperament – where it dredges up long-buried wells of regret and reminiscence, the viola somehow trawls closer to the surface.

No such considerations apply to Ernest Bloch’s Suite for Viola and Orchestra, a work premiered in 1919, the same year as Elgar’s Concerto. Ridout brings a stringent intensity to the opening movement, which in places interestingly prefigures the soundworld of Berg’s 1935 Violin Concerto. He effectively conjures the misty nocturnal atmosphere of the Lento third movement, and embraces the roisterous finale with relish. With incisive support from Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, you are left wondering why this eventful piece is not heard more often in concert.


Terry Blain