Patterson Concertos

Magnetic performances of a trio of string concertos by a highly skilled composer

Author: 
Edward Greenfield

Patterson Concertos

  • Concerto for Violin and Orchestra
  • Concerto for Viola and Orchestra
  • Concerto for Cello and String Orchestra

Paul Patterson, longtime professor of composition at the Royal Academy of Music, is here celebrated in recordings of three major concertos, all of them in superb performances, vividly recorded. The overall pattern in each is similar: Patterson begins with two or even three slow, meditative movements, including a substantial cadenza, and only then as a finale does he write a vigorous, strongly contrasted movement. This scheme puts an extra strain on the soloists, for each has to build tensions alone, unable to rely on a vigorous opening movement, as in most concertos of whatever period. Happily, each of the soloists here is more than capable of sustaining magnetism, before rounding off each work with a rousing allegro or presto.

The Violin Concerto (1992) features Hungarian violinist Tamás András, who trained at the Royal Academy of Music. The reflective opening Adagio leads into a cadenza which exploits the brilliance of the violin, even hinting at dance rhythms to come, before subsiding into the main Adagio. The Finale is then strongly rhythmic with Patterson’s favourite dactylic rhythm dominant.

The Cello Concerto (2002) opens with an extended Adagio which finally leads to a cadenza which becomes more and more animated, culminating in a Presto, again dominated by dactylic rhythm. The Viola Concerto (2009) starts this time with a cadenza, which features pizzicatos and leads into a reflective Aria ending on high harmonics, eerily effective. There is then an Intermezzo with more pizzicato writing before the final Tarantella, making this on balance the most effective of the three works, with Sarah-Jane Bradley outstanding throughout.

What is more problematic is Patterson’s avoidance of conventionally thematic writing. His slow, reflective movements involve easy cantilena, which rarely if ever develops into a tune, and the brilliant finales generally involve effects rather than themes. What the disc does not mention is that all three works involve strings alone, and Patterson is certainly highly skilled in writing imaginatively for the medium. Even so, without recognisable themes, it makes for somewhat grey results, limited in their emotional content, which no doubt was the composer’s intention. An excellent showcase for an important composer, sponsored by the Vaughan Williams Trust.

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