Rubbra: Violin Concerto; Viola Concerto

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COMPOSERS: Rubbra
LABELS: Conifer
WORKS: Violin Concerto; Viola Concerto
PERFORMER: Tasmin Little (violin) Rivka Golani (viola)RPO/Vernon Handley
CATALOGUE NO: CDCF 225 DDD
Though it has its loyal adherents, the music of Edmund Rubbra (1901-86) has so far failed to win widespread popularity, even in Britain. Perhaps it is because it is impossible to pigeonhole. He was not given to pastoralism, nor was he open to modernist influences from the continent – at least in any obvious way. Yet as these works show, his was a distinctive voice, not immediately ingratiating, but sure in what he was trying to express.

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The Viola Concerto, written for William Primrose in 1952, has an undemonstrative, ruminative quality combined with depth of feeling and integrity of idea. Some of the spareness of Elgar’s Cello Concerto defines the relationship between the solo instrument (here played with virtuoso skill by Rivka Golani) and orchestra. Loveliest of all is the rapt quality of the variation-like ‘Collana musicale’ (musical necklace) that forms the finale.

Tasmin Little’s performance goes to the heart of the even finer Violin Concerto (1959), a dense and often tense work, sturdy and individual in style, and of irresistible cogency. The veiled lyricism of the ‘Poema’ slow movement is superbly suggested by the soloist.

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Conductor Vernon Handley again proves a principled, unshowy interpreter of the music. In readings of this quality, Rubbra commands attention. George Hall