Bowen: Violin Concerto; Piano Concerto No. 1

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LABELS: Dutton
WORKS: Violin Concerto; Piano Concerto No. 1
PERFORMER: Lorraine McAslan (violin), Michael Dussek (piano); BBC Concert Orchestra/Vernon Handley
For many years York Bowen’s essentially post-Romantic idiom was ultimately frozen out of the concert hall by the distinctly chilly breezes of post-war stylistic hypothermia. Yet such was his early talent that he premiered his First Piano Concerto (1903) at the Proms while he was still a student at the Royal Academy of Music. It’s an unashamedly virtuoso vehicle, intended to put his teenage fingers through their paces in much the same way as Rachmaninov had done just over a decade before as a Moscow Conservatoire student with his First Concerto. Long-term Dutton stalwart Michael Dussek negotiates the note-splattered, Scharwenkian terrain with infectious bravado and sensitivity, and ‘Tod’ Handley directs with all his customary sympathy and understanding.


The gloriously impassioned E minor Violin Concerto (1913) takes its lead not from Mendelssohn but another concerto in the same key by Julius Conus. It’s wonderful to hear Lorraine McAslan again (once a regular star of the now-defunct Collins label), playing with the kind of dashing swagger, vibrato intensity and quicksilver portamento that distinguished Heifetz’s concerto recordings of the 1950s. It’s a mesmerising performance, captured in opulent sound. Julian Haylock