Anthony Marwood / Martyn Brabbins

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Sir Arthur Somervell: Violin Concertos

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Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Sir Arthur Somervell: Violin Concertos Review

by Uncle Dave Lewis

This is the fifth installment of Hyperion's series The Romantic Violin Concerto, highlighting the talents of soloist Anthony Marwood with orchestral backing provided by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Martyn Brabbins. It brings together two neglected English violin concerti, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's Violin Concerto in G major, Op. 80, written for Maud Powell in 1912, and the Violin Concerto in G major written for Adila Fachiri (Jelly d'Aranyi's sister) by Arthur Somervell. In the first case, the long neglect of the work is hard to fathom; in the second instance the disregard paid by performers and public alike over the years is no less warranted, but perhaps easier to understand. Certainly, both concerti are more than welcome on disc, and this is the first time for the Somervell.

Coleridge-Taylor's Violin Concerto in G major, Op. 8, is his last major work and shows signs of not being completely worked through: the final movement, despite its bombast, drama, and sense of occasion, seems a little anti-climactic, and the recapitulation of the main theme in the first movement hits the listener like a bucket of bricks. Yet Coleridge-Taylor underscores the cadenza that follows with a tympani roll, a rather unusual and decidedly "romantic" effect. The opening theme of the concerto is lyrical and haunting; the second movement is luscious and serenely beautiful, with the violin and orchestra surging up into the high register together in a protracted sigh of ecstasy.

These concerti time out at roughly equal length, though Somervell's concerto is formally rather lopsided, with over 18 minutes devoted to the first movement alone. Marwood's playing is gracious, flexible, and sensitive, and the BBC Scottish Orchestra provides fine support without overwhelming the soloist. The Hyperion recording, made at Greyfriar's Church in Edinburgh, is splendid as usual. The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 5, is enthusiastically recommended to devotees of romantic music once thought a bit past the pale due to the incursion of modernism, and especially so to violin fanciers who seek good, romantic violin concerti that go beyond the usual Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, and the like.

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