York Bowen & Cecil Forsyth – Viola Concertos

0 of 5 stars

Viola Concerto in C minor, Op.25
Viola Concerto in G minor

Lawrence Power (viola)

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Martyn Brabbins

Recorded on 11 & 12 November 2004 in Caird Hall, Dundee

Reviewed by: Douglas Cooksey

Reviewed: June 2005
Duration: 62 minutes

A far cry from those York Bowen ‘Grade’ pieces one used to play for piano exams, his early Viola Concerto is a real find, especially when played as superbly as here and also given the relative scarcity of concertos for the instrument. At just under 36 minutes (as recorded) it is a substantial work.

York Bowen had much success early on. The Viola Concerto, premiered in 1908 by Lionel Tertis when Bowen was 24, is not only brilliantly scored – demonstrating a real mastery of the orchestra – but is also melodically memorable. The first movement in particular grabs the listener from the first bar and has a glorious second subject. The slow movement displays a degree of wistful charm and introspection remarkable in one so young. Above all, Bowen’s music never meanders. Only slightly less successful is the finale, which includes elements of a scherzo, and which has an agreeably tongue-in-cheek quality if an overlong cadenza.

Lawrence Power’s performance is everything one could hope for and more – full of tangible charisma.

Cecil Forsyth (1870-1941), like Bowen London-born, may well have written the first substantial viola concerto by a British composer. He was a pupil of Stanford and a violist in the Queen’s Hall Orchestra. He emigrated to the States in 1914 and was also an author of music books. Forsyth’s concerto received its premiere in 1903. The best movement is the elegiac second, an extended meditation, which is as thoroughly Edwardian in feeling as Kipling’s poem “Recessional”. The outer movements certainly have their moments (a memorable tune in each) but neither hang together satisfactorily and Forsyth sometimes resorts to bombast.

Once again Power and Martyn Brabbins make the strongest possible advocates, and this excellently produced release enjoys splendid sound to make the most of the musical rewards of the Bowen.

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