Sally BEAMISH (b. 1956)
Viola Concerto (1995) * [19.19]
Cello Concerto 'River' (1997) ** [22.01]
Tam Lin for Oboe & Orchestra (1993) ***
*Philip Dukes (viola)
** Robert Cohen (cello)
*** Gordon Hunt (oboe)
Swedish Chamber Orchestra/Ola Rudner
Recorded: * and *** May 1999; ** August
As we all know, crime doesn't pay. Perhaps just occasionally, however, it
produces some unexpected benefits. Though Sally Beamish had written music
from an early age she was pursuing a career as an orchestral violist until
1989 when her instrument was stolen. This, apparently, was the event which
finally prompted her to concentrate on composition, to good effect to judge
by the contents of this CD.
The three concertante works on this disc, all receiving their first recordings,
evince a distinctive and strong musical personality. All have extra-musical
associations. The Viola Concerto was inspired by Peter's denial of Christ;
the Cello concerto is a response to an eponymous collection of poems by Ted
Hughes; Tam Lin is based on an old Scottish ballad. Both the cello
and viola concerti are here played by the soloists who commissioned them.
As befits the event which inspired it, the Viola Concerto is serious, not
to say tragic, in tone. The music, which is in one continuous movement, is
projected eloquently by both the soloist and the accomplished orchestra.
The admirable notes provide helpful signposts as to what is being portrayed
as the music unfolds.
The story of Peter's denial is a familiar one. However, I do not know the
Ted Hughes poems to which Sally Beamish responds in the Cello Concerto. Perhaps
for this reason I found this work more difficult to grasp at first hearing.
It is cast in four short movements which are played without a break (sensibly,
BIS provide a separate track for each). Once again, I found the notes helpful
in appreciating the music. Like all the works on the disc River makes
demands on the listener but the language is accessible and it is clear that
the composer has something worthwhile to say. Although Miss Beamish challenges
her audience she also communicates with them directly and vividly.
Tam Lin is much more lightly scored than its companion pieces. There
are some fascinating effects of scoring and much of the music, such as the
opening, is highly atmospheric. I did not find it particularly easy to relate
the music to the story behind it but I'm not sure how much that matters;
the work can still be appreciated as a piece of 'absolute' music. As in the
other pieces here recorded, the composer exploits fully the lyrical qualities
of the solo instrument.
BIS provide first rate sound. Though I have not seen any scores the performances
sound authoritative and wholly convincing. All three soloists acquit themselves
with distinction and the support from Ola Rudner and his Swedish players
is exemplary. The composer must be delighted to receive such advocacy from
both performers and record company alike.
Recommended to all collectors interested in contemporary British music.
See also review by Paul Conway