COMPOSERS: Britten,Delius and Milford
LABELS: Dutton Epoch
ALBUM TITLE: Philippe Graffin Plays Works by Britten, Delius and Milford
WORKS: Violin Concertos and The Darkling Thrush
PERFORMER: Philippe Graffin (violin); Royal Scottish National Orchestra/David Lloyd-Jones; *Philharmonia Orchestra/Nicholas Collon
CATALOGUE NO: CDLX 7320
Brittle and brooding, Britten’s Violin Concerto has been coupled on CD with Berg, Szymanowski, Beethoven and Walton – and now Delius, a composer he appreciated in his youth, though very different in style. The conjunction is nonetheless effective. We begin in Delius’s lovely Paradise Garden, with long-legged melodies sweetly decorated by Philippe Graffin’s silvery violin in an engaging performance partly reflecting the historical evidence of early printed sources and Albert Sammons’s own marked manuscript of the solo line.
Textures start to thin out in Robin Milford’s The Darkling Thrush, written in 1928, inspired by a Thomas Hardy poem. Winter’s ‘bleak twigs’ and ‘growing gloom’ can’t hold back a thrush that has obviously taken singing lessons with Vaughan Williams’s lark. Apart from an awkward clump of folk jollity nine minutes in, Milford sustains the mood of this winter pastorale very well. It’s a welcome first recording.
Then the wind of change hits. We’re in Europe, under dark clouds scudding in from the Spanish Civil War. Britten’s music is wiry and nervous, dotted with a timpani tattoo. Recorded at Abbey Road in sound warmer and subtler than the acoustic available at the RSNO’s Glasgow sessions, Graffin gives a very strong reading, fully reflecting the music’s jitters. Nicholas Collon and the Philharmonia excel too, especially in pensive stretches like the first movement’s hushed conclusion, so magical here. A masterful account, this, of a masterful work. Geoff Brown