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EDMUND RUBBRA Concerto for Violin & Orchestra Op 103; Concerto in A for Viola & Orchestra Op 75  Tasmin Little, violin, Rivka Golani, viola RPO/Vernon Handley   CONIFER CDCF 225

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Though he may well be remembered for his choral music and his eleven symphonies, Rubbra nevertheless composed a handful of concertante pieces and concertos of which the most important are the Piano Concerto Op 85 (1956), the Violin Concerto Op 103 (1958) and the Viola Concerto Op 75 (1952). They have all received very little exposure, at least as far as commercial recordings are concerned. Some members possibly still cherish Matthews' fine recording of the piano concerto (EMI HQM 1103 and more recently - 1977 - SLS 5080 both nla). The violin concerto was recorded some time ago by Unicorn and recently reissued in CD format (DKPCD 9056) while there is no current recording of the viola concerto nor for that matter of the Improvisation for violin and orchestra Op 89 (1957). Thus the present record certainly fills a gap and (hopefully) paves the way for a new recording of the piano concerto and of the much earlier Sinfonia Concertante Op 38 (1936, rev 1943) which is still unrecorded and very rarely heard. The Viola Concerto Op 75 was written in 1952 for and dedicated to William Primrose who gave its first performance in 1953. It is quite a sizeable piece in three movements displaying many Rubbra fingerprints and the solo part, though very demanding, calls for musicality rather than virtuosity. On the whole the Viola Concerto is a rather introspective work and its music generally slow moving. There is however a rather nervous Scherzo at the centre of the piece which ends with a more sectional movement titled Collana musicale (musical necklace) that provides for some contrast in a rather single-minded work. The Violin Concerto Op 103 was written in 1958 and is another fine piece. Again it is a work that calls more on musicality than on virtuosity although Rubbra knew the violin well for having long partnered his wife and for having long played in a trio with William Pleeth. Rubbra's familiarity with the instrument certainly helped him avoiding technical "tricks" and concentrating his creative energies more on an inward-looking solo part than an outward-dashing virtuosic one. Rubbra's music is never superficial and it makes its points slowly which is why Rubbra is sometimes referred to as the perfect record composer in that his music necessitates repeated hearings only made possible by recordings. Both the violin and the viola concertos are important works within Rubbra's symphonic output and the present excellent performances and recordings allow us to discover and enjoy the many riches displayed (or rather buried) in these pieces.

There is very little to complain about. The performances and the recordings are of the highest quality and certainly serve the music well. Vernon Handley and his orchestra are obviously in sympathy with the music and their involvement is evident throughout. A minor quibble though: The total playing time is a bit on the short side and might thus have allowed for the inclusion of the Improvisation for violin and orchestra Op 89 which would have been a perfect 'fill-up'.

Hubert Culot


Hubert Culot

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