WORKS: Serenade in D; Concerto for Violin & Horn
PERFORMER: Sophie Langdon (violin), Richard Watkins (horn); BBC Philharmonic/ Odaline de la Martinez
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9449 DDD
This arresting disc brings us works from the beginning and end of Smyth’s career, and in both periods she proved capable of delightful surprises and real originality of thought. The Serenade, written when she was 32, formed her introduction to London audiences. It was her first orchestral work, yet breathes a technical assurance and creative maturity which are remarkable. Certainly the breadth of Brahms’s thinking lies behind its big-boned paragraphs, but there is a creative independence which occasionally reminds you of Nielsen, another composer who came to individuality after Brahmsian beginnings. What is admirable for such an early work is that Smyth doesn’t try too hard, and effortlessly fills her broad, genial canvas. Charm can lead to powerful outbursts, but in due symphonic course.
The later work is even more individually cast. It sings with joy and confidence, and in its elegiac Adagio touches the deepest springs of emotion. The capricious finale poses some structural problems, but will perhaps fall into place on longer acquaintance. With fine playing from the BBC Philharmonic and soloists Langdon and Watkins under de la Martinez’s enthusiastic direction, both the Serenade and Concerto make a vivid impression. Anthony Payne