Anthony Marwood / Lawrence Power / Ilan Volkov / BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

Britten: Violin Concerto; Double Concerto; Lachrymae

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Even though Benjamin Britten's Double Concerto in B minor and the Violin Concerto, Op. 15, were early works, composed between the ages of 19 and 25, they are substantial concertos that demonstrate his phenomenal skill at orchestration and his youthful eagerness to impress with virtuosity. This 2011 Hyperion recording by violinist Anthony Marwood, violist Lawrence Power, and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ilan Volkov, is a handsome showcase for these pieces, and the ingenious effects that Britten conceived in the solo parts are presented in sharp relief against their orchestral accompaniment. The interpretations are a bit enigmatic, perhaps because Britten's music swings between humor and tragedy, rather in the manner of Shostakovich, but the musicians play with confidence and obvious involvement, so the music still speaks, even if specific expressions are elusive. The closing work, Lachrymae, is a composition from 1950, and the mature Britten is easily recognized in the extraordinary timbres and combinations he devised for these meditative variations on John Dowland's songs, "If my complaints could passions move" and "Flow my tears." Hyperion's sound is carefully balanced, open, and natural, so while the focus is always on the soloists, they don't sound artifically boosted or separated from the ensemble.

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