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Kenneth LEIGHTON (1929-1988)
Cello Concerto Op. 31 (1955) [32:22]
Symphony No. 3 Laudes Musicae Op. 90 () [27:10]
Raphael Wallfisch (cello)
Neil Mackie (ten)
Scottish National Orchestra/Bryden Thomson
rec. Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, 23-24 Jan 1989. DDD
CHANDOS CHAN 10307 X [59:44]


Leighton's Cello Concerto was begun in 1955 and completed the following year. It is cast in three movements though the layout is rather unusual, the slow movement being placed third, The opening Moderato is immediately followed by a nervous Scherzo that precedes the long slow final movement, Although the sleeve-notes do not say anything about the background of the composition of the work, one is left with the impression of a very personal, intimate utterance. The concerto is impressive, powerfully lyrical but Leighton's lyricism is very tense, uneasy with a good deal of bitterness and moments of violence. It undeniably belongs among Leighton's best works,

Leighton wrote three symphonies, though only one, Symphony No. 1 Op. 42 (1954) is purely orchestral. Symphony No. 2, Sinfonia Mistica Op. 69 (1974) is for soprano, chorus and orchestra while Symphony No. 3 is for tenor and orchestra. It sets texts by Sir Thomas Browne, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Shelley and the composer. Browne's text in the first movement is framed by a short verse by Leighton. As the title implies, the texts are concerned with the art of music. The character of the first movement is mainly one of luminosity of texture and sensation of light (Lewis Foreman). The second movement, setting Browning's ‘Hymn to Pan’, is really the symphony's scherzo which disrupts the contemplative nature of the first movement. It appropriately includes an important part for flute. The final movement is again slow, setting Shelley's Music when soft voices die. It has a slow introduction of Mahlerian grandeur and intensity leading to the short vocal interlude on Shelley's poem, The initial passion is then resumed and slowly quietens down to a consoling finale.

All the participants perform this music with conviction and commitment. This is probably one of the most beautiful records devoted to Leighton's music and a significant tribute to a very distinguished composer. One hopes that it will lead to the recording of Leighton's earlier symphonies and some of his concertos, especially his Piano Concerto No. 3.

Hubert Culot

see also review by Rob Barnett

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