The debate continues over whether Britten’s Violin Concerto, a product of his early maturity, is a masterwork or merely a useful vehicle for a spirited violinist. Anthony Marwood makes the best possible case for it in this new studio recording with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Ilan Volkov. Has the opening Moderato’s edgy lyricism ever sounded so tantalisingly seductive? Marwood goes on to capture the sinewy vitality of the middle movement and, no less brilliantly, the quixotic moods of the closing Passacaglia, where Volkov’s tensile accompaniments are spot-on. The disc includes an equally charismatic performance of Lachrymae for viola and strings: Lawrence Power’s big tone and bewitching agility lend the piece a stature that belies its modest duration. But not even Marwood and Power, joining forces in the concerto for violin and viola, can lend this precocious student work the stature the Britten estate clearly craves for it.
The same question marks hang over Power’s Shostakovich CD: two of the three works (Seven Preludes, originally for piano, and Five Pieces from The Gadfly, a Tchaikovskian film score) are transcriptions by violist-friends of the composer. The disc’s raison d’être is the 30-minute Sonata for viola and piano, Shostakovich’s last composition. Power and Crawford-Phillips get beneath the skin of a work that, in its balance between wit and wisdom, radiance and austerity, comes across as a mysterious embrace of life and death.
Violin Concerto, Double Concerto, Lachrymae
Anthony Marwood and Lawrence Power
Music for viola and piano
Lawrence Power and Simon Crawford-Phillips
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