Britten: Violin Concerto; Double Concerto; Lachrymae

COMPOSERS: Britten
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Britten
WORKS: Violin Concerto; Double Concerto; Lachrymae
PERFORMER: Anthony Marwood (violin), Lawrence Power (viola); BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Ilan Volkov
CATALOGUE NO: Hyperion CDA 6801

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Britten’s Double Concerto was an abandoned student work, realised by Colin Matthews and premiered in 1987. It is rich, vital and a virtuosic achievement for an 18-year-old. The Violin Concerto may be more powerful, but shares some weaknesses with its sister concerto: the compression and economy that would become hallmarks of the composer’s style are not yet developed and in both works there are tracts of rather inconsequential passage work and unadventurous orchestration. Equally, the Double Concerto has an incredible freshness and dynamism, particularly in the urgently syncopated Tarantella finale. It also has some fiendishly difficult writing for the soloists.

Aided by the alert Ilan Volkov, Anthony Marwood and Lawrence Power form a persuasive partnership on this recording. But they don’t quite attain the fire and radiant expressivity of the performance given by Yuri Bashmet and Gidon Kremer (Erato). Marwood is a vivacious soloist in the Violin Concerto and particularly compelling in its magnificent Passacaglia, which is expertly paced. His rather dry approach to the long sequential passages of chords and pizzicatos in the first movement palls quickly, but that same crisp attack, combined with a wide tonal palette, generates tremendous excitement in the Vivace.

There are moments when one misses a fuller, gutsier sound, and perhaps Janine Jansen’s recent recording explores even more tonal variety, but we are left in no doubt about the levels of searing commitment behind Marwood’s performance. It’s rounded off by Power’s deeply thoughtful and refined account of the Lachrymae.

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Helen Wallace