Schurmann: Concerto for Orchestra; Violin Concerto

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COMPOSERS: Schurmann
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Concerto for Orchestra; Violin Concerto
PERFORMER: Olivier Charlier (violin); BBC Philharmonic/Gerard Schurmann
Gerard Schurmann is as hard to classify musically as he is nationally. Born in Java to Dutch and Hungarian parents, trained in Britain, resident in Holland, London, then Los Angeles, he seems to have musical roots in a multitude of different soils. There are strong echoes of Bartók – especially in the Concerto for Orchestra – and every now and then you’ll hear themes and harmonies that recall Schurmann’s fellow student Alan Rawsthorne, and yet there’s none of the heavy grey-brown orchestration that sometimes smothers Rawsthorne’s ideas. In fact Schurmann’s orchestration is dazzling – a combination of French fastidiousness and American boldness. The playing, both from the BBC Philharmonic and violinist Olivier Charlier, is magnificent – polished, assured and full of focused energy – and the recordings are vintage Chandos. The opening of the Concerto for Orchestra is a splendid Technicolor assault: it’s music that makes sure you sit up straight and take notice. But although Schurmann is clearly master of his means, and his imaginative scope is broad, the music recorded here rarely inspired me with much more than respect. Stunning super-competence rather than true creative fire, I’m afraid. Stephen Johnson