Zwilich: Violin Concerto; Rituals

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COMPOSERS: Zwilich
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Zwilich Violin Concertos
WORKS: Violin Concerto; Rituals
PERFORMER: Pamela Frank (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.559268
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, born in Miami in 1939, was an orchestral violinist before establishing herself as a composer, and her Violin Concerto shows an obvious love for the instrument’s lyrical qualities – matched by singing lines in the orchestra. A more specific violinistic reference occurs in the central movement, a chaconne in the rhythm of Bach’s great solo Ciaconna, culminating in a quotation from the Bach. Bachian models might also have been salutary in the more discursive, start-and-stop outer movements. But Pamela Frank, soloist in the premiere in 1998, is a persuasive advocate, and the wind soloists of the Saarbrücken orchestra also make a strong impression in a clear recording.

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Rituals, a recent concerto for five percussionists and orchestra, makes colourful use of an array of instruments in four well contrasted movements – though, given the motive power of percussion, Zwilich’s reluctance to build up long-term momentum seems here even more perverse. The original performers, the long-established Canadian group Nexus and Michael Stern’s own Iris Chamber Orchestra, sound confident and sympathetic, though the recording is somewhat cramped. Anthony Burton