If post-war English orchestral music is your special area of interest, this disc featuring the London Philharmonic in two world-premiere performances and a London premiere performance of works by Malcolm Arnold and John McCabe will be of compelling interest. Indeed, both the world premieres here, McCabe's Concerto for Orchestra and Arnold's Philharmonic concerto, were commissioned by the London orchestra and composed with its particular qualities in mind. In McCabe's nearly symphonic five-movement concerto led here by Georg Solti, the orchestra's ensemble qualities -- its blend, balance, contrast, and unity -- are emphasized. In Arnold's sometimes jazzy three-movement concerto led here by Bernard Haitink, the orchestra's soloists -- its brilliant brass, characterful winds, scintillating strings, and especially its diverse percussion department -- are brought to the fore. Performed with energy and virtuosity by the London Philharmonic and its two conductors, the two concertos are given what will have to stand as definitive for the foreseeable future. The aptly chosen third work on the disc is The Chagall Windows, also by McCabe. Another virtuoso piece for orchestra, this one is more concerned with long lyrical lines and bright but subtly combined colors and the Philharmonic, again under Haitink, does an outstanding job of pulling it off. Recorded in clear, cool stereo sound revealing every nuance of the performances, this disc should attract the attention of all dedicated fans of English modernism.
John McCabe: Concerto for Orchestra; The Chagall Windows; Malcolm Arnold: Philharmonic Concerto Review
by James Leonard