Like every self-respecting
orchestra nowadays, the London Philharmonic have their
own label, featuring live recordings both recent and of
historical importance. This disc sports recordings from
concerts given with their newly appointed music director
Vladimir Jurowski since 2007.
ending of the Double Concerto warrants the acquisition
of this disc all by itself. The way viola player Alexander
Zemtsov echoes his colleague Pieter Schoeman in the evocative
single high notes that resonate long after they have sounded,
will make you want to play this disc all over again. Benjamin
Britten was a child prodigy - if there ever was one - and
even in his teens he was capable of writing music of genius
and then discarding it … just like that. This is what happened
to the double concerto for violin and viola of 1931, finished
in ‘short score’, but abandoned and never looked at again.
It was Colin Matthews who in 1997 realised the orchestral
score from Britten’s very detailed markings. The concerto
was premiered in Aldeburgh that year. Written before Britten’s
official op. 1, it already demonstrates his mature style.
Six years later
Boyd Neel, who had conducted Britten’s only feature film
score, Love from a stranger
, asked Britten to compose
a piece for his string orchestra to perform at the Salzburg
Festival. Britten took a theme from his teacher Frank Bridge – Idyll
no.2 for string quartet – and finished a 25-minute variation
cycle in just over a month. It became his first popular
classic and has remained so ever since. As a live recording,
this performance has the merit of spontaneous music-making,
and as such is big boned, rather than refined. In post-production
the slightly overlong pauses between variations, obviously
necessary in performance, could have been taken out, but
that is a matter of choice.
Although the song-cycle Les
was originally written for Britten’s
life companion Peter Pears, it has become the domain
of every self-respecting soprano and tenor. Sally Matthews
is technically and vocally on top of things, but in doing
so forgets about the words.
This disc brings together
the talents of two important orchestra members, leader
Schoeman and principal viola Zemtsov. Despite his Dutch-sounding
name Schoeman is from South-Africa, and Russian-born Zemtsov
studied in the Netherlands. In their hands, and with the
help of Vladimir Jurowski and their colleagues, Britten’s
Double Concerto is revealed as a masterpiece.