Goehr & Hamilton

0 of 5 stars

Violin Concerto, Op.13 *
Violin Concerto, Op.15
Sinfonia for two orchestras

Manoug Parikian (violin)

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Norman Del Mar *

Scottish National Orchestra
Sir Alexander Gibson

Goehr recorded on 3 March 1971 in No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Hamilton Concerto recorded on 21 November 1971, and Sinfonia recorded “summer 1965”, both in City Hall, Glasgow

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: November 2004
CD No: EMI 5861892
Duration: 68 minutes

This mid-price “British Composers” CD restores the LP-coupling of two notable violin concertos. Alexander Goehr’s completed in 1962, Iain Hamilton’s ten years before.

Goehr (born 1932) chooses a two-movement format; the first is a concise set of variations; as befits such commentary, the moods are varied. The organisation is tight and focuses not just on the violinist but also on soloists from the orchestra. The 9-minute movement is concerned with burgeoning growth, an exploration of lyrical possibilities (with occasional orchestral disruptions) and which, via a winsome curlicue from the orchestra, leads to the second movement, which is twice as long. This is a more-symphonic statement of exposition and development, the expression mellifluous if rhythmically driven, the orchestra vying between partnership and opposition; a sense of theatre is established, the cadenza is extravagant, and the closing bars are thrilling. The organisation is Schoenbergian, the darting interplay reminds of Bartók, and the poetic generosity of Berg; Goehr’s balance of head and heart is acute. This very persuasive, well-recorded performance suggests that Goehr’s Violin Concerto is in urgent need of reassessment, something this CD gladly affords us.

The Violin Concerto of Iain Hamilton (1922-2000) is in the traditional three movements – fast-slow-fast – their equal-length balance (about nine minutes each) affording a genuine sense of proportion. The first movement is passionate, constantly developing, tenderness naturally forming out of energy. The concerto was written in memory of the composer’s father, and it’s the eloquent, deeply felt Adagio that is the work’s most personal, its remembrances reaching a searing climax and distilled coda. The energetic finale has a real sense of culmination; exultance and syncopation drive the music along, and some sweeping Walton-like lyrical incursions touch the heart. Another excellent performance.

The 15-minute, 11-section Sinfonia comes as quite a ‘modernist’ shock immediately after the Concerto. Hamilton completed this in 1959 and its first performance was at that year’s Edinburgh Festival by the artists on this recording. The standard orchestra is split into two halves, Hamilton exploiting maximum timbral contrast. Musically the score is economic, in a Webernian sense, and while there is underlying activity to keep the music in motion, the fascination how Hamilton explores the possibilities of his serial invention. (Hamilton’s composing methods turned full-circle: his Symphony No.4 is in B minor.) A committed rendition completes this invaluable release.

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