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English Classical Violin Concertos
James BROOKS
(1760-1809)
Violin Concerto No 1 in D major [15:28]
Thomas LINLEY JNR (1756-1778)
Violin Concerto in F major [16:04]
Thomas SHAW (c.1755-l830)
Violin Concerto in G major [14:09]
Samuel WESLEY (1766-1837)
Violin Concerto No 2 in D major [18:03]
Elizabeth Wallfisch (violin)
The Parley of Instruments/Peter Holman (from the fortepiano)
rec. St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead, London, 8-10 January 1996. DDD
HYPERION HELIOS CDH55260 [64:05]
Experience Classicsonline

This disc of English classical violin concertos from Helios presents concertos by four different composers, all written at the mid-end of the eighteenth century. The first three composers featured were all from Bath and most likely wrote these works for the numerous concerts that took place in that thriving and cultured spa town.
 
James Brooks, whose Concerto in D major opens the disc, was born in Bath. His father was a violinist, with whose band the young Brooks performed in the concerts that Thomas Linley the Elder put on in the town. His concerto brims with elegance, poise, and polish, and demonstrates some confident writing on the part of the younger composer.
 
Thomas Linley Junior was still in his mid-teens when wrote his violin concerto in F major. His father was the Bath harpsichordist, composer and teacher and, as aforementioned, directed concerts in Bath. These later featured his own children: the girls, Mary, Elizabeth and Maria were singers, while young Thomas played the violin. Linley was an exact contemporary, and friend, of Mozart, and was extremely highly esteemed as composer – he died young in a tragic boating accident, cutting short a composing career that promised to be quite spectacularly good.
 
This is the only one of the twenty or more violin concertos that Linley wrote that has come down to us complete. It has an innovative and advanced first movement, a lyrical, beautiful, and a slightly mysterious slow movement Adagio. The last movement Rondeau incorporates the rhythm of the gavotte, and is quite delightful.
 
Thomas Shaw was also born in Bath, probably in early – mid-1750s, and he remained there as a violinist before moving, like Brooks and Linley, to London. His violin concerto in G major has a lively and dancing first movement Allegro Moderato, a lilting and exquisitely beautiful slow movement Arioso, that hints at a gentle folk-tune, and an elegantly light and dancing final movement Rondeau.
 
The disc concludes with the Somerset-born composer Samuel Wesley’s violin concerto in D major – again, written in his mid-teens. The piece, which was written for concerts that Samuel organised with his brother Charles at their family home in Marylebone, is quite courtly in style, and contains some complicated and sophisticated writing for one so young.
 
There is hugely attractive music here – with some incredibly assured writing from the young English composers. The performances are excellent – soloist Elizabeth Wallfisch is technically brilliant although the sound is occasionally slightly harsh. The Parley of Instruments, directed from the fortepiano by Peter Holman, give sympathetic and enthusiastic accompaniment. A very good disc.
 
Em Marshall
 

 


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