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Douglas COATES (1898-1974)
Violin Concerto in D major (1934) [25:07]
E.J. MOERAN (1894-1950)
Violin Concerto (1937-41) [32:58]
Colin Sauer (violin), BBC Northern Orchestra/Sir Charles Groves (Coates)
Alfredo Campoli (violin), BBC Symphony Orchestra/ Sir Adrian Boult (Moeran)
rec. from live BBC broadcasts 15 March 1951 (Coates); 1954 (Moeran), mono, historical sound. ADD
THE DIVINE ART 27806 [59:46]



Here are two historical recordings with sound to match. Obviously both are in mono. However the Coates concerto is in vivid meatily forthright mono. Orchestral balance assertively favours the solo instrument with evidence of compression of the orchestral tuttis - presumably to avoid distortion in this poetically virile concerto. The Coates has been very smartly scrubbed up and sounds pretty good with silent background and any scratches and scuffs elided. Much the same can be said of the Moeran which is not as bad as the dire warnings in the booklet suggest. The disc is well documented by Lewis Foreman and Andrew Rose.

Douglas Coates has no connection with Albert Coates. Douglas was born in Yorkshire, educated in Lancashire and moved to London in 1923-24. I had never heard of him until Jonathan Woolf mentioned to me that these transcription discs had been found. Philip Scowcroft did valuable detective work to fill in some of the details. Sadly Coates’ scores, including a cello concerto and a violin sonata, seem to have vanished ... unless you know better.

The Coates Violin Concerto is rather lop-sided with a surging first movement running to over quarter of an hour followed by two movements each lasting less than five minutes. The outline of the work follows the standard fast-slow-fast template. Yet that first movement is such an ardent outpouring that one comes away wanting to hear it again and prepared to forgive the short breath of the finale. The writing is big and potent with the violin soaring in almost constant song over the tormented orchestral part. Colin Sauer - at the centre of musical life in the Dartington and Exeter areas during my youth - drives this work forward with gorgeous sturdy tone and no little poetry. The style is loosely comparable with Elgar, Bax and Delius - whose voices you might have expected anyway - and Miaskovsky - who you probably would not expect. There is no trace of dissonance.

This constitutes the fourth commercially released recording of the Moeran Violin Concerto. The first was issued in 1979 on Lyrita Recorded Edition LP SRCS 105 (John Georgiadis, London Symphony Orchestra/Vernon Handley). Then came the Mordkovitch recording on Chandos (CHAN10168X Ulster Orchestra/Handley see review) in 1990. Then in 1999 came Symposium’s CD (1201) including the Sammons broadcast recording from 1946 (see review).

Campoli pours an almost desperate intensity into these pages. The mood is emotionally exalted - exulting in melancholy and beauty. Campoli is not content to allow the generous poetry at play throughout these pages to cool the emotions. This is I think the warmest and most passionate performance I have ever heard of the piece. I say that in knowledge of all the commercial versions but also knowing broadcast tapes of performances by Ralph Holmes, Yfrah Neaman and Tasmin Little. Going by the feral stomp and romp of the middle movement Boult shared the Campoli vision. The music fairly flies - wild-eyed and kicking up the dust from the dancing floors of Kerry. Boult goads his players to the edge of their capabilities in the central toboggan ride of a Rondo. The contour of the movements is slow-fast-slow; just like the Delius. Even in the flanking slow movements Boult and Campoli keep up the pressure to a remarkable degree. Whatever this tells us about Campoli it also reminds us that Boult was in fact a fiery conductor at times comparable with Mravinsky and Golovanov.

There we have it: a surprising discovery (the Coates) that survived against the odds and a hothouse performance of the Moeran.

Rob Barnett






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