Rawsthorne Violin Concertos etc
One of the most valuable BBC Radio Classics releases thus far; in point of fact, none of the pieces here is otherwise currently available.
The committed account of the impressive First Violin Concerto, which was recorded at the opening concert of the 1972 Cheltenham Festival, features the Dutch soloist, Theo Olof, who had also given the first performance some 24 years earlier (again at Cheltenham, with Barbirolli and the Halle Orchestra). Rawsthorne began the concerto (which he dedicated to Walton) in 1940, but the war intervened and it was only completed seven years later. It is cast in two movements, the first of which comprises a substantial theme and variations (a Rawsthorne speciality). By comparison, its successor of 1956 has a more restrained, less lyrically effusive demeanour. In the fine opening Allegretto the sense of purpose is unremitting, the bittersweet lyricism and superior finish entirely characteristic. Come the central Poco lento and the skies have darkened, the mood now anguished and browbeaten. The finale (yet another theme and variations) finally succeeds in banishing the gloom, and the whole work ends in a vein of boisterous good humour – not a trait one readily associates with this particular figure. The concerto receives a splendid performance from Manoug Parikian, ably supported by Rudolf Schwarz and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
Next, Frank Shipway and the BBC Concert Orchestra lend fresh-faced advocacy to the invigorating, but ultimately elegiac Improvisations on a Theme by Constant Lambert (1960). Rawsthorne and Lambert were the closest of companions (they were born in the same year, 1905) and Rawsthorne’s piece takes its cue from the opening of Lambert’s final creation, the 1950 ballet entitled Tiresias (on the scoring of which the ailing composer was helped by Rawsthorne). The connection doesn’t stop there: when Lambert died in 1951, Rawsthorne married his widow, Isabel, the painter and scenic designer, to whom the present Improvisations bear a dedication. This generous anthology is rounded off by a perceptive, if not ideally tidy rendering from Bryden Thomson and the BBC Northern SO of the brief, but marvellously resourceful (and, for that matter, deceptively profound) Divertimento that Rawsthorne wrote for Harry Blech and the London Mozart Players in 1962.
Altogether a most valuable compilation. Not to be missed, especially at bargain price.'