Britten/Veale Concertos for Violin and Orchestra
John Veale (b1922) began to make an enviable name for himself in the 1950s‚ but as a relatively conservative‚ tonal composer his music was sidelined by Sir William Glock’s ‘modernist revolution’ at the BBC‚ and he stopped composing for a dozen years. It was the Violin Concerto that broke his silence‚ and it sounds like music that has been distilling for a long while: the wonderful opening of the slow movement‚ a long‚ musing violin line over muted strings and harp‚ could only have been written by a composer who has been thinking about a violin concerto for years and now simply has to write one. When that music returns‚ after a passionate discussion culminating in a satisfying gong stroke‚ it achieves a memorable‚ delicate serenity.
There are big emotions in play in the first movement including‚ the composer tells us‚ anger. In the finale a roistering brio is continually halted by reflective lyricism. It is a fine piece‚ at times not far from Walton in manner‚ and Lydia Mordkovitch obviously enjoys its resourceful writing for her instrument.
The Britten Concerto was written during the Spanish civil war for a Spanish violinist‚ Antonio Brosa‚ and is pervaded by what Brosa identified as a ‘Spanish rhythm’. The idea that that war might have affected the piece is given added substance by Mordkovitch’s recognition of occasional affinities with Shostakovich.
There is a biting edge to some of her brilliance and great poignancy in the finale; parting company completely with the author of the bookletnote‚ she finds no ‘mood of serenity’ to its conclusion. Her alertness to its range of character and colour is admirably seconded by Hickox and by a clean but spacious recording.