Don Banks, David Morgan, Peter Racine Fricker: Violin Concertos

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This Lyrita disc contains three postwar English violin concertos by three composers under represented in the catalog. The first and earliest work here is Peter Racine Fricker's Concerto for violin and small orchestra from 1950. With its lean textures, inward lyricism, and edgy but still tonal harmonies, Fricker's work somewhat resembles a younger and more passionate Hindemith. Next is David Morgan's Violin Concerto from 1966. More overtly modernist in terms of harmony and orchestration, Morgan's work was said by the composer to represent "the struggle, aspirations and despair of the individual" against "a destiny that nobody wants but everybody must share." The final work is Don Banks' Concerto for violin and orchestra from 1968. As befits his studies under Nono and Dallapiccola, Banks' work is atonal in harmony, alienated in mood, and aggressive in tone.

In these three performances, all three concertos -- and by extension, all three composers -- are given a shot at the big time. Yfrah Neaman is a committed soloist in Fricker and Banks' works who can negotiate the former's flashy closing Allegro vivo as well as hurdle the latter's assertive closing Risoluto. Erich Gruenberg is equally dedicated interpreter in Morgan's concerto and is particularly impressive in the work's snare-drum driven central Presto energico ma leggieramente. With the services of the capable Royal Philharmonic, Norman del Mar provides expert accompaniments for Neaman and Vernon Handley grants the same level of expertise for Gruenberg. Though not for every fan of English music, listeners curious to investigate less-well-known postwar composers may want to at least sample the works on this disc. Recorded in stereo in the early '70s, Lyrita's sound is typically cool, clear, and detailed.

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