H Watkins Flute Concerto; Violin Concerto*; Symphony
Adam Walker (flute), Alina Ibragimova (violin); Hallé/Ryan Wigglesworth; *BBC Symphony Orchestra/Edward Gardner
NMC D224 67:02 mins
It’s still unusual to find newly written symphonies, even if concertos have been making a definite comeback, and Huw Watkins brings his personable, twinkly voice to both genres with engaging aplomb. While some composers seem to sculpt in sound, Watkins’s approach here feels a bit more like knitting (I mean this in the nicest possible way). Often he takes rapidly moving strands of sound and weaves them into inventive textures, producing quirky, sparkly effects and, in the concertos, challenging his soloists with rhythmic tricks aplenty.
Both concertos are in the traditional three movements. Watkins is alive to the instruments’ inherent expressive strengths, in the Flute Concerto beautifully using the soloist’s potential for twittering, flittering flight – and Adam Walker’s sensitive playing sits well within the textures of the Hallé under Ryan Wigglesworth’s sympathetic direction. The Violin Concerto’s recording comes from its premiere at the BBC Proms, with Alina Ibragimova as eloquent soloist. Her burnished tone, fiery and lyrical, does the music’s thoughtful side especially proud: Watkins provides her with extended cantilenas alongside those quick-whirling skeins – particularly effective in the slow movement. She is matched by ample dynamism from the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Edward Gardner. The Symphony’s two movements, Allegro molto and Lento, are created in an intriguing idiom, basically tonal, but with much of the momentum coming from the clever manipulation of rhythmic conflict. The Hallé and Ryan Wigglesworth deliver a strong performance and the sound quality in their parts of the disc is warm and detailed. The notorious Royal Albert Hall acoustic doesn’t do the Violin Concerto as many favours as it deserves.