Why has no one previously thought to release Arthur Benjamin's three string concertos together on one CD? Maybe this has to do with the difficulty of the music. Now Dutton Epoch's solo team of violinist Lorraine McAslan and violist Sarah-Jane Bradley, playing with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, have produced remarkably involving performances. Here we have the almost unknown Benjamin Violin Concerto and Viola Concerto, the soloists uniting for the more familiar Romantic Fantasy for violin, viola and orchestra.
Dedicated to Walton, the Violin Concerto is notable for its wealth of invention, for the English feel of the opening movement (owing to its pentatonic colouration) and for the lilting siciliana charm of the middle movement. Listeners will particularly engage with the music's energy, thrillingly articulated by soloist Lorraine McAslan's flashing violin playing especially in the driven Rondo finale.
McAslan is joined by Sarah-Jane Bradley in the Romantic Fantasy for Violin, Viola and Orchestra. This is an delightful score of ever-shifting lyricism, of exchange and interplay between the soloist and with the orchestra. Sarah-Jane Bradley is soloist in the war-time Viola Concerto, sometimes known as 'Elegy, Waltz and Toccata', the composer's own orchestration of his Viola Sonata. Reflecting the times, Benjamin essays a score of sombre tone but of no less eloquence, expressively performed by Sarah-Jane Bradley. Includes world premiere recordings. Track listing: Violin Concerto (1931) soloist: Lorraine McAslan; Romantic Fantasy for Violin, Viola & Orchestra (1936) soloists: Lorraine McAslan & Sarah-Jane Bradley; Elegy, Waltz and Toccata [Viola Concerto] for Viola & Orchestra (1943) soloist: Sarah-Jane Bradley