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Edmund RUBBRA (1901-1986)
Improvisation for violin and orchestra op. 89 (1956) [12:25]
Improvisations on Virginal Pieces by Giles Farnaby op. 50 (Farnaby's Conceit; His Dreame; His Humour; Loth to Depart; Tell me, Daphne) (1939) [13:11]
Violin Concerto op. 103 (1960) [30:19]
Krysia Osostowicz (violin)
Ulster Orchestra/Takuo Yuasa
rec. 25-26 May 2004, Ulster Hall, Belfast. DDD
NAXOS 8.557591 [57:04]

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A fine disc. Krysia Osostowicz has only previously been known to me for a middling disc of Brahms Violin Sonatas on Hyperion Helios (CDH55087) although a glance at her discography will reveal a distinct leaning towards the music of the present composer, Rubbra.

As it happens, Osostowicz is an ultra-sensitive interpreter of Rubbra's music, something which comes through right from the evocative, sneaky line that opens the Improvisation for violin and orchestra. This piece is a reworking of an earlier Fantasia from the mid-1930s. Osostowicz's tone is aptly ruminative although my personal preference would be for a touch more sweetness. Yet she can be throaty later in the violin's lower register. Rubbra's dark side is frequently in evidence here. The music unfolds slowly and despite more agile passages, the work ends in hyper-gentle fashion, enough, certainly, to make one hold one's breath. Lovely.

The Violin Concerto is a large-scale work, its dark and stormy opening sets the tone. The most serious work on the disc, it is also the most uncompromising from the composer's viewpoint. Osostowicz digs in to the challenges magnificently - the first movement cadenza is remarkably tough. The emotional pivot around which this work turns, the middle movement (Poema – Lento ma non troppo) is a very personal statement indeed. Warm and inviting, this is highly evocative and the recording has just the right amount of space and ambience to realise the music's merits fully; step forward for a bow Producer Mike Purton and Engineer Tony Faulkner. The finale, which sounds to me a first cousin to Stravinsky's Soldier's Tale!, is active and superbly pointed.

Talking of Stravinsky, Rubbra indulges in some Pulcinella-like antics for his Improvisations on pieces by Farnaby; Malcolm MacDonald also makes this point in his notes. There are five movements listed in the heading. This is fairly big-boned stuff, with more than a touch of fun around - especially the playful third, that invokes Malcolm Arnold! Loveliest of all, possibly, is the solo viola of Loth to Depart. Barbirolli recorded this with his beloved Hallé, available on EMI CDM5 66053-2, but Yuasa and his Ulster band do themselves credit.

A lovely disc.

Colin Clarke

see also Reviews by Jonathan Woolf, Gary Higginson, Kevin Sutton and Rob Barnett





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