Arthur Benjamin, Britten, Bruch

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Arthur Benjamin,Britten,Bruch
LABELS: Arte Nova
WORKS: Romantic Fantasy
PERFORMER: Benjamin Schmid (violin), Daniel Raiskin (viola); Berlin SO/Lior Shambadal
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 89826 2
For duo-concerto devotees possibly fixated by Mozart’s lordly Sinfonia concertante for violin and viola, here’s a fascinating opportunity to challenge the mind-set. Benjamin Schmid and Daniel Raiskin explore three highly contrasted works on this enterprising Arte Nova release. Forming the centrepiece is Britten’s Double Concerto (1932), scored from the composer’s minutely annotated sketches by Colin Matthews, who claims that ‘what is heard is not far from being 100 per cent Britten’.

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Certainly these artists do it admirable service, even if they don’t quite eclipse the virtuosity and tonal rapture that Bashmet and Kremer brought to Erato’s world-premiere recording. Orchestral playing, under the watchful leadership of Lior Shambadal, is more assured and capable than the Hallé’s for Nagano, incidentally.

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Arthur Benjamin’s attractive Romantic Fantasy of 1937 enjoyed limited currency thanks to performances by Heifetz and Primrose, who also recorded it for RCA in 1956. Again, Schmid and Raiskin impress, with clean, agile playing (especially in the central Scherzino), and the piece has long deserved a new recording of this quality. Bruch’s Double Concerto receives a less satisfactory performance; the opening Andante, especially, lacks focus and cohesion, and the work never seems to fully engage or inspire these gifted soloists. A sturdy catalogue recommendation overall, though, and recorded sound is excellent. Michael Jameson