BRITTEN; DELIUS Violin Concertos
New recordings of Delius’s raptly songful, beautifully proportioned Violin Concerto are always welcome. Philippe Graffin’s version with David Lloyd-Jones certainly glows with commitment, benefiting as it does from the Frenchman’s close study of dedicatee Albert Sammons’s towering interpretation – and, most significantly, the manuscript of the solo part marked and used by him in the first performance. Lloyd-Jones has also taken the opportunity to banish some of the slurring added by Beecham (preserved in the 1985 edition of the full score published by the Delius Trust) with the aim of clarifying the solo line in such key passages as the dancing 12/8 Allegretto towards the end. It’s followed by the world premiere recording of Robin Milford’s The Darkling Thrush – a deeply touching, Hardy-inspired cousin to The Lark Ascending, first given in March 1929. Again, Lloyd-Jones and the RSNO lend Graffin sympathetic support, though I’d have preferred greater lustre and ambient warmth in what is an otherwise judiciously balanced sound picture.
Any sonic reservations evaporate, however, in the compelling account of the Britten Concerto that completes the programme. This was set down in the more amenable surroundings of Abbey Road Studio No 1 and finds Graffin igniting a consistently nourishing and sparky rapport with Nicholas Collon at the helm of the Philharmonia. Of course, we are now almost embarrassingly spoilt for choice with top-notch versions of this masterwork – Haendel (Warner, 5/78), MacAslan (Naxos, 10/05), Hope (Warner, 5/04), Jansen (Decca, 1/10), Zimmermann (Sony, A/09), Marwood (Hyperion, 3/12), Little (Chandos, 7/13) and Roth (Challenge, 7/14) all jostle for attention – but this admirably lucid and painstakingly prepared newcomer is as involving as any to have come my way, and I defy anyone not to be profoundly moved by the reserves of pathos and emotional candour that this intrepid fiddler quarries in the concerto’s hugely powerful closing minutes. It’s the standout item on this two-channel hybrid SACD, and no fan of either Britten or Graffin should miss hearing it.