Tippett: Concerto for Double String Orchestra; Fantasia Concertante on a Theme of Corelli; Ritual Dances from The Midsummer Marriage

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Tippett
LABELS: Teldec
WORKS: Concerto for Double String Orchestra; Fantasia Concertante on a Theme of Corelli; Ritual Dances from The Midsummer Marriage
PERFORMER: BBC SO & Chorus/Andrew Davis
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-94542-2
The Davises – Colin and Andrew – have cornered the market in Tippett’s later, large-scale works in concert and on CD, but here is the latter tackling the composer’s two best-known early works for strings and the Ritual Dances from Tippett’s first opera. The Double Concerto gets off to a slightly ragged start – chamber orchestra forces often seem to project the rhythmic vitality of this piece better than a full string section – but improves movement by movement. The Adagio cantabile is dominated by some beautifully warm playing from the principal cellist and in the finale Davis shapes the ‘big tunes’ with great suavity.

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The same caveat about size of forces emerges in the Fantasia: both these works are about contrapuntal richness more than textural sumptuousness, and here the mock-Baroque configuration of three instrumental ensembles takes on an out-of-place, Karajan-like broadness of scale.

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Davis’s astutely fashioned Ritual Dances have plenty of bite and atmosphere, though it jars to have the chorus in the final dance (superbly trained if rather too polite) but without four soloists. Matthew Rye