Rawsthorne: Cello Concerto; Oboe Concerto; Symphonic Studies

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Rawsthorne
WORKS: Cello Concerto; Oboe Concerto; Symphonic Studies
PERFORMER: Alexander Baillie (cello), Stéphane Rancourt (oboe); Royal Scottish National Orchestra/David Lloyd-Jones
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554763
Since Alan Rawsthorne’s death in 1971 there has been a slow trickle of recordings of his work – just enough to keep him from being completely forgotten. But nothing that I remember makes as strong a case as this disc for taking Rawsthorne seriously again. The Symphonic Studies – incredibly Rawsthorne’s debut as an orchestral composer – is a remarkably confident, compelling piece, reminiscent of Hindemith and Walton at times, but with a flavour of its own. Still more characteristic is the Oboe Concerto: introspective, melancholic and from time to time mildly astringent, it has one of those superficially upbeat endings which still leaves one with a sense of deeper tensions unresolved. I wish I could be as positive about the finale of the Cello Concerto. It’s a shame he felt he had to resort to this kind of strained jollity after the dark magic of the first two movements – the same kind of heavy heartiness spoils the finale of the otherwise impressive Third Symphony. But given such enthusiastic, accomplished performances and fine recordings I’m looking forward to going back and trying again. What David Lloyd-Jones and the RSNO have been doing for Bax, they could well do equally for Rawsthorne – and he may ultimately be more deserving. Stephen Johnson