Brian: Violin Concerto; Symphony No. 18; The Jolly Miller Comedy Overture

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Brian
LABELS: Marco Polo
WORKS: Violin Concerto; Symphony No. 18; The Jolly Miller Comedy Overture
PERFORMER: Marat Bisengaliev (violin)BBC Scottish SO/Lionel Friend
CATALOGUE NO: 8.223479 DDD
Another welcome issue in Marco Polo’s Brian series. The rumbustious, high-spirited Jolly Miller Overture, based on the well-known folksong, is extremely colourful and very tongue-in-cheek. The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, particularly the percussion section, clearly relish it. In fact every department of the orchestra shines throughout, Friend steering firmly through these often wayward scores.

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The three movements of the Violin Concerto (1935) have 14 CD-player cues tied to Malcolm MacDonald’s illuminating text – a great help in appreciating this large scale, highly complex concerto with dense contrapuntal strands. Some of the most direct and tuneful melodic writing in Brian’s output is here, though, and there are strong influences of Elgar and Vaughan Williams. Often, there are tantalisingly fleeting glimpses of really attractive material. The violin part is cast in an heroic mould and Bisengaliev has all the necessary virtuosity and big tone, especially for the main cadenza which has very taxing bravura writing.

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Symphony No. 18 was composed in the same year as The Jolly Miller (1962). It is concise and sardonic with bright march-like outer movements and an interesting Adagio that welds drifting, serene, dreamlike figures into a powerful and intense funereal march. Highly recommended. Ian Lace