Holloway: Second Concerto for Orchestra

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

WORKS: Second Concerto for Orchestra
PERFORMER: BBC SO/Oliver Knussen
A remarkable recording of a remarkable work. Robin Holloway’s Second Concerto for Orchestra, written in 1978 to a commission from the Scottish National Orchestra, is something of a masterwork. As befits a concerto for orchestra it is grandly conceived and for very large forces (triple wind and brass). In three continuous movements, the concerto lasts just over 30 minutes. It was written much under the influence of a visit Holloway made


to North Africa. The vast array of percussion instruments – Chinese blocks, ratchets, maracas, glocks, claves, bell-trees and anvils – conjures up the sounds of ‘hammering, tapping, tinkling, thudding and bashing’ reminiscent of the working quarters of old cities. Holloway writes wonderfully idiomatically for the orchestra, displaying an ear not only for the colours of Richard Strauss, Debussy and Stravinsky, but also for hints of their themes. More obviously recognisable tunes, particularly an Italian pop song, playfully infiltrate the texture. The BBC Symphony Orchestra is in cracking form, simply revelling in this remarkable score. Oliver Knussen brings out every nuance in a sound balance of astonishing clarity, leaving one to marvel at the wonders of modern recording technique. A triumph for NMC. Annette Morreau