ALBUM TITLE: Bowen and Forsyth Viola Concertos
WORKS: Viola Concertos
PERFORMER: Lawrence Porter (vla), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67546
York Bowen was a widely fêted young hope of English music at the beginning of the last century, but after the First World War his reputation went into steady decline. Granted, the Viola Concerto (1908) hardly ranks with the Walton Concerto as gem of English Romanticism, but it is fresh, lyrical and lively, with an appealingly lush, nostalgic slow movement. Occasional echoes of Strauss, and more frequently of Delius (though Delius was never as agile), are not in themselves a problem, but the Concerto ultimately lacks a strongly distinctive voice. It is still more memorable than the blandly conservative and frequently formulaic Forsyth – though again (interestingly) it is the slow movement that comes across best.
No, the real discovery of this disc for me was Lawrence Power: a player of strength and delicacy, precision and poetry, who makes a strongest possible case for both pieces. The recording balances him well against the BBC Scottish Orchestra, conducted by the astonishingly versatile Martyn Brabbins, who sound as involved as Power throughout both concertos. Stephen Johnson