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The deeper the blue…

Janet Sung (violin); Simon Callaghan (piano); Britten Sinfonia/Jac van Steen (SOMM)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

The deeper the blue…
Vaughan Williams: Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra; Dutilleux (Arr. Hesketh): Au gré des ondes; Ravel: Tzigane; Sonata for Violin and Piano*; Kenneth Hesketh: Inscription-Transformation
Janet Sung (violin); Simon Callaghan (piano)*; Britten Sinfonia/Jac van Steen
SOMM Recordings SOMMCD 275   72.21 mins

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Janet Sung shines in the lyrical episodes of Vaughan Williams’s Violin Concerto, most especially in the beautiful Adagio – Tranquillo central movement. In the jaunty Allegro pesante first movement her occasionally slightly off tuning suggests, appropriately, a bluegrass fiddler.

Kenneth Hesketh’s richly colourful and evocative orchestral soundscapes in Inscription-Transformation, composed specifically for Sung, recall Oliver Knussen (who championed Hesketh’s music): the emphasis is very much on woodwind and bell-like percussive sounds to complement Sung’s by turns gleaming harmonics, bird-like song and yearning lyricism.

Hesketh’s orchestration of Dutilleux’s piano suite, Au gré des ondes, appears as a palette-cleansing interlude. His reworking and filling out of the piano textures soften the music’s wayward character – ‘Prélude en berceuse’ sounds rather like late Vaughan Williams.

Sung and the Britten Sinfonia play Ravel’s lush orchestral version of Tzigane with relish – though the piece, as so often, seems to ‘sit down’ rather abruptly at the end. Ravel’s Sonata is played in its original
form, Sung superbly partnered by Simon Callaghan who by artful pedalling makes the piano appear to ‘bend’ its notes in the ‘Blues’ movement. In that same movement, though, Sung draws back from the mic just as she launches into her pizzicato strum. Her tuning is also slightly less than precise in the final ‘Perpetuum mobile’. All said, though, a most fascinating and enjoyable programme.

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Daniel Jaffé