WORKS: Violin Concerto
PERFORMER: Lydia Mordkovich (violin); BBC SO/Richard Hickox
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9910
We’ve long needed a good modern recording of Britten’s Violin Concerto and here it is at last. Lydia Mordkovich has made some acclaimed concerto recordings for Chandos and, despite an uncomfortable intonational slip at the start of the finale, this should join that pantheon in a performance to equal, if not surpass, the classic one from Mark Lubotsky under the composer’s direction. Her emotional commitment is evident in every bar, no more so than in the melancholy final section of the passacaglia, as the music winds down to a troubled but resigned close. Equally convincing is the more muscular playing required in the first movement and central scherzo. With vivid playing from the BBC SO, the accompaniment is as accomplished as anything Hickox has achieved in his Britten discography.
The coupling is the first recording of a concerto by John Veale (b1922 and still with us), a notable composer of film scores in the Fifties, and a writer of symphonic works who disappeared from view, it is claimed, thanks to the modernist Glockistas of the BBC. His Violin Concerto was begun in the Sixties, but only completed in 1984; in between, he says, he was ‘destroyed by the great avant-garde explosion [which] led to 12 bleak years of creative sterility’. The work certainly makes its presence felt in this hard-edged performance: the orchestral writing is often explosive and the solo part busy. Its language has little novel to say, being rather overloaded with both Romanticism (in the sultry, elegiac slow movement) and what I can only describe as film-music-style ‘action’. But it’s certainly worth a listen. Matthew Rye