STANFORD; MILFORD Violin Concertos
Completed in August 1918 but mysteriously left in short score, Stanford’s Second Violin Concerto lasts just under half an hour and is performed here in Jeremy Dibble’s outstandingly idiomatic orchestration from 2011 (which, in its modest instrumentation and tasteful restraint, looks to the example of the composer’s First Violin Concerto and Clarinet Concerto). This is a wonderfully fluent, warm-hearted creation, boasting a resourcefully worked and confidently plotted opening movement that leads without a break into the concerto’s gently nostalgic Andante centrepiece (full of tenderness and unmistakably Irish in flavour). A spirited rondo finale rounds off proceedings in style. Dashingly committed treatment it enjoys, too, from Rupert Marshall-Luck, who receives uncommonly fine support from Owain Arwel Hughes at the helm of the BBC Concert Orchestra.
By comparison, Robin Milford’s 1937 Concerto wears an altogether more rhapsodic, wayward demeanour, which is not to decry its far-flung ambition, lyrical ardour and intrepid expressive scope. Storm clouds build menacingly during the slow movement and reappear for the piece’s darkly troubled close. To my mind, this powerfully affecting 38-minute canvas undoubtedly constitutes a major find, and lovers of the English pastoral tradition (and RVW, Howells and Finzi in particular) should lose no time in making its acquaintance. The present artists do Milford absolutely proud, it must be said, while Holst’s very early Walt Whitman Overture from 1899 (with its shameless cribbing from Brahms and Wagner) forms a vivid curtain-raiser to the whole programme.
EM Records’ admirable production values and copiously detailed presentation further enhance the considerable claims of this bold venture. Plaudits and gratitude to all concerned.