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.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Suite for viola & small orchestra|
|Flos Campi, suite for viola, wordless chorus & orchestra|