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Alan RAWSTHORNE (1905-1971) - Orchestral Works: Concerto for String Orchestra, Concertante pastorale for flute, horn and strings, Light music for strings, Suite for recorder and string orchestra, Elegiac rhapsody for string orchestra, Divertimento for chamber orchestra. Conrad Marshall (flute), Rebecca Goldberg (horn), John Turner (recorder), Northern Chamber Orchestra conducted by David Lloyd-Jones Naxos 8.553567 [63:36]




Yet another Naxos/British music bull's-eye, comprising an imaginative programme realized with great sympathy by all involved. The most substantial offering here - the resourceful and magnificently crafted Concerto for String Orchestra - dates from 1949, and David Lloyd-Jones and his admirably prepared group give a performance which, in its emotional scope and keen vigour, outshines Sir Adrian Boult's (now-deleted) 1966 radio recording with the BBC SO: not only does Lloyd-Jones achieve a more thrusting urgency in the outer movements, he also locates an extra sense of slumbering tragedy in the Lento e mesto. Similarly, Lloyd-Jones's sparkling new version of the immensely engaging Divertimento that Rawsthorne wrote for Harry Blech and the London Mozart Players in 1962 must now take precedence over Bryden Thomson's altogether sturdier 1979 recording with the BBC Northern SO (BBC Radio Classics, 7/97 - nla)'. certainly, the rumbustious concluding 'Jig' (track 13) is as good a place as any to sample the spick-and span response of the Northern Chamber Orchestra.

Written for the Hampton Court Orangery Concerts (where it was first heard in 1951), the Concertante pastorale is an atmospheric, beautifully wrought ten-minute essay for sol6 flute, horn and strings. It's succeeded by the perky LighL Music for Strings composed in 1938 for the Workers' Music Association and based on Catalan folk-tunes. (The composer's Spanish Civil War sympathies also revealed themselves in the finale of his First Piano Concerto premiered in the same year, which quotes a fragment of the Italian revolutionary song adopted by the Spanish, Bandiera rossa.) The Rawsthorne Trust commissioned John McCabe's expert orchestration of the miniature Suite for recorder and strings, the second of whose four linked movements is a reworking of a ballad from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. But the most exciting discovery has to be the 1963-4 Elegiac Rhapsody, a deeply felt threnody for string orchestra written in memory of Rawsthorne's friend, the poet Louis MacNeice. Not only does it pack a wealth of first-rate invention and incident into its ten-minute duration, it attains a pitch of anguished expression possibly unrivalled in this figure's entire output.

Excellently annotated by John Belcher and cleanly engineered, here is a terrific successor to Naxos's outstanding coupling of Rawsthorne's two violin concertos (9/98). Tantalizingly, the booklet lists a forthcoming chamber music collection featuring pianist John McCabe, violist Martin Outram and the Rogeri Trio. Dare we also also hope for a new version of the Cello Concerto and (above all) what remains perhaps Rawsthorne's masterpiece, namely the exhilarating Symphonic Studies of 1938?


Andrew Achenbach

Reproduced by kind permission of Gramophone magazine.

See previous reviews

What next?

You can learn more about the composer from the Rawsthorne Web Site

If you purchase this disc, as you surely must, reduce your average postage by also purchasing the companion disc:
RAWSTHORNE Violin Concertos 1& 2, Fantasy Overture: Cortèges Rebecca Hirsch (violin), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, cond. Lionel Friend Naxos 8554240

Buy here: Crotchet  Amazon

see review here

Naxos also lists a third disc which I have yet to hear:

RAWSTHORNE Quintet for Piano and Strings, Piano trio, Cello Sonata, Viola sonata, Concertante for Violin and Piano John McCabe (piano) Martin Outram (viola) Rogeri Trio Naxos 8.554352  buy here

Currently at a special low-midprice there is a recording of the Rawsthorne Clarinet Quartet coupled with two other British works:
RAWSTHORNE Clarinet Quartet, BLISS Clarinet Quintet, ROUTH Clarinet Quintet Nicholas Cox (clarinet) Nicholas Ward (violin) Peter Pople (violin) Ivo-Jan van der Werff (viola) Paul Marleyn (cello) Redcliffe RR010

buy here  or visit the Redcliffe website

Rawsthorne's symphonies are available on a Lyrita CD:
RAWSTHORNE Symphonies Symphony No.1 London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir John Pritchard • Symphony No.2  (A Pastoral Symphony) Tracey Chadwell (soprano) London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Nicholas Braithwaite • Symphony No.3 BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Norman del Mar Lyrita SRCD 291

buy here


Len Mullenger

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