Vaughan Williams; Elgar

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COMPOSERS: Vaughan Williams; Elgar
LABELS: Signum Classics
WORKS: Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending; Violin Concerto in D minor; Elgar: Introduction and Allegro; Serenade for Strings
PERFORMER: Tamsin Waley-Cohen (violin); Orchestra of the Swan/David Curtis


The Lark Ascending is too short by itself to fill out a concerto slot in most orchestral programmes, which raises the familiar issue of what to include alongside it. The answer is so obvious that not many soloists seem to have noticed, whereas this one has. Vaughan Williams’s own Violin Concerto (originally named Concerto accademico) is about the same compact length, quite different in its Baroque-related style, and as Tamsin Waley-Cohen writes in her booklet note, a work of special quality, whose slow movement is ‘a jewel of beauty and expressivity’.

By today’s turbo-charged standards the firepower of Waley-Cohen’s playing is not huge, and the range of light and shade a little contained; but her sense of line and capacity to make things happen are both beautiful and strikingly individual. In the Concerto she finds a convincing interplay between period-style non-vibrato and dreamy sensuality; and The Lark Ascending’s opening solo searches out an extreme degree of musical space in a way that’s at once daring and mesmerising, while the supple flow of the main sections is beautifully judged. The orchestra’s quality contribution is channelled less successfully into Elgar’s two masterworks: David Curtis’s tight-reined approach seems to short-change the music’s energy and invention.


Malcolm Hayes