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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 30 November 2012
This selection of British works for viola and orchestra consists of two lesser-known pieces by well-known composers (Bax and Vaughan Williams), and two by lesser-known composers (Theodore Holland and Richard Harvey).

Bax's Phantasy for Viola and Orchestra (1920) was written at around the time of the First Symphony, when the composer was at his most "Irish", a fact that is evident in the Celtic flavour of the music. There is even the quotation of a couple of Irish folksongs, something of a rarity for Bax, and the slow introduction is in the form of an Irish Keen or lament. Given the dark, brooding character of the viola, Bax's orchestration is intelligent. He restricts himself to a fairly small orchestra, with the minimum of brass, thus allowing the solo instrument to be heard, and to play its full part in the musical argument. There are three short movements, played without a break.

Less familiar - a world premiere, in fact - is Theodore Holland's "Ellingham Marshes". This piece was entitled "Poem" at its first performance in 1940, and is perhaps best understood as a rhapsody. The actual Ellingham Marshes lie in Suffolk, and Holland's music attempts to evoke their changing mood at different times of day, by turns sombre, wistful and idyllic. Like Julius Harrison's "Bredon Hill" for violin and orchestra, "Ellingham Marshes" attempts to evoke the pastoral mood of the English landscape without resorting to the folk-like pastoralism of RVW and his disciples.

Vaughan Williams' Suite for Viola and Small Orchestra (1933-34) consists of eight short movements arranged in three groups (3+2+3). As such, the different parts are often performed separately, as on the ASV recording (CD DCA 1181) - group 1 only - so a new recording of the full suite is most welcome. The work is full of direct, memorable tunes, and the tender simplicity of 'Carol' and 'Ballad' is in marked contrast to the robust 'Christmas Dance', or the headlong 'Galop' which rounds off the piece. The virtuoso highlight, however, is undoubtedly the breathless 'moto perpetuo'.

Richard Harvey's Reflections for Viola and Small Orchestra (1990/2012) is a world premiere recording, and consists of four short movements, the titles of which - 'Awakening', 'Shadowplay', 'Borderlands', 'and 'Remembrance' - betray something of the mood of the music. In the first movement the viola sings quietly against a rather eerie-sounding orchestra, although the tempo quickens mid-movement, and the mood brightens before the viola recedes back into the mists. After a hesitant start, the second movement is swept airily along by the viola, with the orchestra providing the shadows, by and large. 'Borderlands' opens broodingly, but the music is generally unsettled, and, as Harvey admits, "is all about ghosts, memories and most definitely about changing landscapes". The ending, however, is upbeat. 'Remembrance' returns us to the piece's mysterious opening mood, but grows in serenity and optimism as it recalls earlier themes.

The BBC Concert Orchestra is conducted by Richard Harvey, joined by the talented violist Stephen Bell.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Like the previous reviewer, I loved this CD from the first playing ! The Bax and the RVW I knew were going to be up my street having heard them both before. The two other works, as premiere recordings, were obviously completely new to me. The Holland is a joy and the surprise is the Richard Harvey. Not being familiar with this composer, I'm completely blown away - I love it ! I'll be looking for other works by him !

Highly recommended !

One last word - hooray for Dutton Vocalion !!!!
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