Bliss: Violin Concerto; The Lady of Shalott

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bliss
LABELS: Carlton BBC Radio Classics
WORKS: Violin Concerto; The Lady of Shalott
PERFORMER: Alfredo Campoli (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: 15656 91842 ADD
As concert hall programmes become increasingly restricted, the recorded repertoire assumes ever-greater significance. Bliss is a composer who is infrequently performed live at present, and ill deserves his neglect, so recordings of his music are vital. Here we have four major works; one, Music for Strings, is widely considered his masterpiece and, despite a few reservations, both discs should be welcomed.

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The BBC archive has once more been enterprisingly tapped to yield two powerfully committed interpretations from 1968, recorded under the composer’s baton. Campoli is a magisterial soloist in the big, generously emotional Violin Concerto, one of the peaks in Bliss’s output, while The Lady of Shalott, recorded here for the first time, makes a characteristically warm-hearted impression – a little too generalised in feeling, perhaps, to represent Bliss at his finest, but vigorously attractive, nevertheless. The recording sound is of its time.

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The other disc places a most appealing early work, Two Studies, alongside the splendid Music for Strings, and includes the late Cello Concerto, superbly performed by Tim Hugh. The joyously invigorating string piece needs playing of more flair than it gets here, and a more spacious recording, but the concerto’s concentrated lyricism, now robust and outgoing, now intimately conversational, is well caught. Anthony Payne