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Samuel COLERIDGE-TAYLOR (1875–1912)
Violin Concerto in G minor Op. 80 (1912) [31'55]
(1 Allegro maestoso — Vivace — Allegro molto [11'39] 2 Andante semplice — Andantino [8'28] 3 Allegro molto — Moderato [11'41])
Arthur SOMERVELL (1863–1937)

Violin Concerto in G minor (1930) [32'59] (First Recording)
(1 Allegro moderato e con grazia [18'21] 2 Adagio [6'44] 3 Allegro giocoso [7'47])
Anthony Marwood (violin)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins
rec. 24-25 Feb 2004, Greyfriars Church, Edinburgh. DDD
The Romantic Violin Concerto – 5
HYPERION CDA67420 [65:03]

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Hyperion’s Romantic Violin Concerto series rolls steadily forward adopting a more sedate pace by comparison with their prolific piano concerto series. These two British violin concertos make a welcome appearance. The Coleridge-Taylor is nothing short of treasurable. The Somervell I am still coming to terms with but has some most surprising resonances. If the series continues this well we should watch out for the violin concertos of Haydn Wood, Gaze Cooper, Robin Milford, Arthur Benjamin, Arthur Bliss, Jean Coulthard, Eugene Goossens, Leroy Robertson, Gordon Jacob and so many others.
The Coleridge-Taylor has been recorded before on the Avie Label where it was in safe and sound harness with the Dvořák. There Philippe Graffin took only thirty seconds less than Marwood. The Avie disc has the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Michael Hankinson. Avie AV 0044.

Astonishing that this Hyperion is now the second version of the Coleridge-Taylor’s Violin Concerto to have been commercially recorded ... and issued. Whether Lyrita Recorded Edition will ever get round to releasing their recording made by the Scots violinist Lorraine McAslan, circa 1995, remains a matter of futile speculation.

The Coleridge-Taylor has much in common with the affable and gracious Dvořák concerto. In mien and melodic curve it is similar and was presumably influenced by the Dvořák; perhaps by the Mendelssohn and Bruch works also. It is a supremely attractive work with an indelibly memorable store of tunes both lively and sweetly sung. The claimed presence of Negro spirituals must be buried deep - I do not hear it. The work in any event stands happily on its own two feet. If you have a liking for the Glazunov and the other models mentioned above then you are bound to like this

It’s hardly a surprise that Coleridge-Taylor was dubbed ‘the colored Dvořák’ by Maud Powell, the work’s first soloist. Powell premiered the concerto on 4 June 1912 at the Berkshire Festival in the USA. It had its UK premiere at the Proms in London on 8 October 1912 and was performed at Bournemouth in February 1913. It dropped out of the repertoire for many years until Sergiu Schwartz revived it at the Guildhall School of Music in 1981. There has also been at least one 1990s performance with the Harvard Orchestra where the soloist was someone now better known to us as a conductor featured on the Naxos American Classics series, John McLaughlin Williams.

Lorraine McAslan broadcast the work for the BBC on 9 June 1995 with the Ulster Orchestra conducted by Jan Latham-Koenig. Getting out my off-air tapes of this broadcast and of the other one by Sergiu Schwartz with Brian Wright and the Guildhall School Symphony Orchestra some comparison can be made. Schwartz (broadcast on 27 February 1981) is sweet-toned but the pacing moves forward with leaden boots and tired muscles. While this tempo has the advantage of allowing Schwartz to mine the work’s lyrical strata without distraction (to great advantage in the Andante) there is no doubting the extra ‘lift’ and mercurial poetry in Graffin and Hankinson’s approach. Schwartz has difficulty keeping his instrument in precise tune; not a problem with Graffin or Marwood. If anything McAslan is even more self-absorbed and reflective than Schwartz especially in the first two movements. The Ulster Orchestra is, not surprisingly, much better than the Guildhall group and their horns make wonderful air-lofted use of the accompanimental figures in the first movement. The Ulstermen and the BBC Scottish are riper than the Johannesburg Orchestra. Do try the hearts and flowers embrace of the middle movement - benevolent writing and playing, brimming with sentiment. It is difficult to choose between the two although, as you will read, there is one noticeable difference. I suspect most people who don’t already have the Avie will choose between the two on the basis of the coupling.

Arthur Somervell’s reputation as a composer now rests on his songs. However he wrote much else. Very much a ‘child of his time’, he was taught by Stanford and Parry and served for many years as Inspector of Music to the Board of Education. The Violin Concerto is his last extended work and was written in 1930. Heart-warming and pastoral, this is the concerto’s first recording. It makes for a far more stimulating and adventurous coupling than the Dvořák. The Concerto has a Brahmsian warm-heartedness and generosity of spirit that I am sure you will instantly warm to. The Somervell also foreshadows Finzi’s pastoral ecstasy. It is surprising to me how often Finzi’s name comes to mind. The fall of many of Somervell’s melodies has Finzi staring out from the stable and emotionally affluent Brahmsian predominance into a transcendent pastoralism. The work has the German composer’s weightiness and gravity as well as his probing emotionalism but the number of episodes when he reaches beyond this with themes and treatment whose contours trace those of Finzi’s Introit (itself for violin and piano), the Clarinet Concerto and the string orchestral parts in Dies Natalis are remarkable. Quite apart from giving us a new point of lineage and prompting curiosity about Somervell’s Intimations of Immortality when compared to Finzi’s own major setting, this music with its singing soul provides clear rewards. The finale bounces along with something approaching the bluffness of manner of Stanford and Edward German. This is moderated by the daffodil-and-daisy innocence and impetuous freshness of the violin solo.

Make no mistake the Coleridge-Taylor is a vivacious and captivating work which I guarantee that you will come to love. The only reservation I have about Marwood and Brabbins’ version is that the first movement is taken extremely broadly; more so than in Graffin’s case. It is not a big deal and when it comes to the most enterprising combination there is no competition - Hyperion will carry the day. If you get a chance do hear the Avie do so but this Hyperion is satisfying at so many levels and it is carried on high by Lewis Foreman’s expert and readable programme notes.

Rob Barnett

SOMERVELL, Arthur [Windermere, 5.6.1863 - London, 2.5.1937]
A select list of his works


The Enchanted Palace;

Princess Zara;

King Thrushbeard;

Knave of Hearts;

Golden Straw;

Thomas the Rhymer;


Mass in C minor for soloists, chorus and orchestra (1891, Bach Choir);

A Song of Praise (1891, Kendal Festival);

The Power of Sound (1895, Kendal Festival);

The Forsaken Merman (1895, text Matthew Arnold, Leeds Festival, then Queen’s Hall, Handel Choral Society / Augustus Manns);

The Charge of the Light Brigade for chorus and orchestra (1897, text Tennyson);

Ode to the Sea (1897, Birmingham Festival);

Elegy for chorus and orchestra or soloist, chorus, strings, horn and piano (1902);

Intimations of Immortality, Ode for baritone, chorus and orchestra (1907, Leeds Festival);

The Passion of Christ for chorus and orchestra (1914);

To The Vanguard for soprano, chorus and orchestra (1917);

Christmas, A Cantata (1926);


Concertstück for violin and orchestra (1913, Aachen);

Symphonic Variations, Normandy for piano and orchestra (1913, Donald Tovey / LSO / Artur Nikisch);

Piano Concerto, Highland Concerto (1920, Guildford 1921);

Violin Concerto (Adila Fachiri / Reid SO / Dr Mary Grierson);


Orchestral Ballad, Helen of Kirkconnel (1893, Philharmonic);

Suite, Thomas The Rhymer (18??);

Suite, In Arcady for small orchestra (1897);

Symphony in D minor Thalassa (1913, Queen’s Hall, LSO/Artur Nikisch, 17.2.1913);


Clarinet Quintet (1919, London);

Violin Sonata (late);


Concert Study in C minor;

Variations on an Original Theme in E minor for two pianos (composer / Leonard Borwick);


Five Songs of Innocence (1888, Blake);

Maud, Song Cycle (1898, Lawrence Rea, Salle Erard);

Love in Springtime Song Cycle (1901);

A Shropshire Lad, Song Cycle (1904, Plunket Greene, Aeolian Hall, 3.2.1904);

James Lee’s Wife Song Cycle (1906);

Windflowers for vocal quartet or choir of female voices;

The Broken Arc (1923, Browning)


Volume 1: SAINT-SAËNS The Three Violin Concertos Compact Disc CDA67074
Philippe Graffin violin, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins
Volume 2: STANFORD Suite for Violin and Orchestra, Op 32; Violin Concerto in D major, Op 74 Compact Disc CDA67208
Anthony Marwood violin, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins
Volume 3: HUBAY Violin Concerto No 3, Op 99; Violin Concerto No 4, Op 101; Variations on a Hungarian Theme, Op 72 Compact Disc CDA67367
Hagai Shaham violin, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins
Volume 4: MOSZKOWSKI Violin Concerto, Op 30; Ballade, Op 16 No 1; KARLOWICZ Violin Concerto, Op 8 Compact Disc CDA67389
Tasmin Little violin, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins

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