Lawrence Power / Martyn Brabbins / BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Vaughan Williams: Flos Campi; Suite for Viola; McEwen: Viola Concerto

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AllMusic Review by James Manheim

The works on this album, although by two different composers, were all written for the same soloist: Polish-British violist Lionel Tertis (1876-1975). His recorded output was sparse and confined mostly to 78s, but numerous British works of the first half of the 20th century were written for him. He often played an oversized viola and cultivated a big, lyrical sound. British violist Lawrence Power offers instead a distinctively earthy viola made by Bologna builder Antonio Brensi in 1610, and it's a reasonable substitute. The find here is the rare Viola Concerto by Scottish composer John McEwen, premiered in 1901 in response to Tertis' first major commission. It is a pure Brahmsian work, but gorgeously written for the viola, whose lines are festooned with large leaps releasing into lambent melody. Power is very strong here and in Vaughan Williams' Flos Campi, for viola, wordless chorus, and orchestra, a work with a rather mystical basis. It has words from the Song of Songs written above the score (and was presented with the Latin texts at its 1925 premiere), but the composer insisted that it was not intended as religious. Power's rich, deliberate style suits these works very well. The opening Suite for viola and small orchestra, with probably the only movement in the classical repertory bearing the tempo indication Polka mélancolique, lacks zip in the reading by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under conductor Martyn Brabbins, but with fine Hyperion engineering this is a good pick for British music lovers and a virtual must for violists.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Suite for viola & small orchestra
1 Martyn Brabbins / Lawrence Power / BBC National Orchestra of Wales 03:05 Amazon
2 Martyn Brabbins / Lawrence Power / BBC National Orchestra of Wales 02:28 Amazon
3 Martyn Brabbins / Lawrence Power / BBC National Orchestra of Wales 01:53 Amazon
4 Martyn Brabbins / Lawrence Power / BBC National Orchestra of Wales 05:58 Amazon
5 Martyn Brabbins / Lawrence Power / BBC National Orchestra of Wales 03:30 Amazon
6 Martyn Brabbins / Lawrence Power / BBC National Orchestra of Wales 03:33 Amazon
7 Martyn Brabbins / Lawrence Power / BBC National Orchestra of Wales 02:54 Amazon
8 Martyn Brabbins / Lawrence Power / BBC National Orchestra of Wales 02:11 Amazon
Viola Concerto
9 Martyn Brabbins / Lawrence Power / BBC National Orchestra of Wales 14:39 Amazon
10 Martyn Brabbins / Lawrence Power / BBC National Orchestra of Wales 08:48 Amazon
11 Martyn Brabbins / Lawrence Power / BBC National Orchestra of Wales 07:45 Amazon
Flos Campi, suite for viola, wordless chorus & orchestra
12 Martyn Brabbins / Lawrence Power / BBC National Orchestra of Wales 02:44 Amazon
13 Martyn Brabbins / Lawrence Power / BBC National Orchestra of Wales 03:12 Amazon
14 Martyn Brabbins / Lawrence Power / BBC National Orchestra of Wales 02:56 Amazon
15 Martyn Brabbins / Lawrence Power / BBC National Orchestra of Wales 01:55 Amazon
16 Martyn Brabbins / Lawrence Power / BBC National Orchestra of Wales 03:09 Amazon
17 Martyn Brabbins / Lawrence Power / BBC National Orchestra of Wales 05:47 Amazon
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