Burgon: Viola Concerto & Cello Concerto

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Burgon
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Viola Concerto (Ghosts of the Dance); Merciless Beauty; Cello Concerto
PERFORMER: Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano), Philip Dukes (viola), Josephine Knight (cello); City of London Sinfonia/Rumon Gamba
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10592

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As well as music for television and film, Burgon has written several works for concert hall, though even these often have a visual stimulus. In the Viola Concerto it’s the American dance marathons of the 1930s, and the melodic and harmonic language, not to mention the prominent rhythm section, harks back to that time, if with a little more edge. It’s expertly written, and must be gratifying to play: Philip Dukes appears to enjoy himself, and never puts a foot wrong.

In the Cello Concerto, another recent work, the visual counterpart is the subtle menace of film noir. It’s not immediately as attractive a piece as the Viola Concerto, despite the involved solo playing: the melodies are too generalised to be memorable, with more gesture than substance.

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There’s greater focus in the seven short settings of Merciless Beauty, beautifully sung, but, by the end of the CD, I was still searching for a central individuality in the music: with hints of many other composers, Burgon himself is hard to pin down. Martin Cotton