'The Lark Ascending’
On this recording, Tasmin Little, an acknowledged standard-bearer for, and specialist in, British music, gives us a feast of works for violin and orchestra, wonderfully supported by Andrew Davis (by all accounts a similar specialist by dint of his recent superb recordings of Elgar, Delius and Holst on Chandos) and the BBC Philharmonic. Little is already known for her many concert performances of The Lark Ascending, an outstandingly original work based ultimately on recurrent cadenzas (which are brilliantly controlled here). She is also well known for her insightful readings of the Delius concertos and sonatas. The somewhat Griegian Légende, albeit an early work written in Paris in 1892, deserves to be better known, for it bears all the hallmarks of Delius’s passionate love of surprising modulations and euphonious melody. Elgar’s miniatures Chanson de matin, Chanson de nuit and the earlier salon hit Salut d’amour are delicious, while Holst’s Song of the Night, not heard until 1984, reveals the unusual incipient chemistry of the composer’s transition from late-19th-century Romanticism to the mysticism of later works such as The Planets.
Little plays it with verve and panache but her most wide-ranging interpretation is reserved for the most substantial work on this disc, Moeran’s magnificent and entirely personal Violin Concerto, written between 1937 and 1942. This work, somewhat scandalously in my view, still remains a neglected masterpiece. Two movements of introspective melancholy lyricism (and what lyricism!), underpinned by Moeran’s particular assimilation of Delian harmony, flank a central Irish jig of tremendous energy, evoked with conviction by Little’s flair and clarity. Indeed, the quicker tempo of this movement (compared with Handley’s earlier recording on Chandos) is particularly thrilling. A sumptuous offering all round!