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Malcolm WILLIAMSON (1931-2003) Lento for Strings [2.45] *; Camargue Scenes [5.25] *
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Piano Concerto in A major, K.414 [25.01] **
Constantin SILVESTRI (1913-1969) Three Pieces for Strings [10.51] ***
Joaquín TURINA (1882-1949) Rapsodia Sinfonica for piano and strings [8.32] ****
London Schubert Players/Alan Tongue (conductor)*

Anda Anastasescu (piano/director) ** / Nicholas Miller (leader/director) *** / Alan Tongue (conductor) and Anda Anastasescu (piano) ****
rec. Merlin Theatre, Pembrokeshire College, December 1995 (Williamson and Turina) and live at the Bucharest Athenaeum, Romania (Mozart/Silvestri). ADD.
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I was prompted to hunt down this disc for review following two recent London concerts that featured music by conductor/pianist/composer Constantin Silvestri. His Three Pieces for Strings is his only composition currently available in the catalogue. 

The opening Pesante brims with life after a short and sober introduction. The middle piece – Cantabile – offers a true singing line, particularly to the middle and lower strings. This displays the inventiveness of Silvestri’s orchestration in that he avoids orchestral deployment that might be expected with such a marking: although the violins do contribute they do not take the lead. The cello line in particular is notable for its sensitivity of phrasing, bringing out a sense of nostalgia in the writing. The closing Veloce is entirely different. It is shorter and quietly rousing, for the most part, It also offers opportunities to bring characterful pizzicato playing out to underline a top line of some character. 

Malcolm Williamson wrote his second symphony for Silvestri and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Williamson’s works presented here are of rather shorter duration than a symphony: the Lento for Strings is plushly upholstered in the rich and sonorous playing of the London Schubert Players. Of the Camargue Scenes, the final one is the most extensive and involved in composition terms. Alan Tongue paces the work sensitively allowing the layers of string writing to be captured with clarity. 

The Mozart concerto, recorded live in Bucharest, is upbeat from the first with Anastasescu setting a lively tempo and securing playing of clarity from the orchestra prior to her solo entry. Her playing carries a freshness about it that is brought about through cleanness of articulation and a careful shaping of phrases. The piano seems caught at a slight distance from the orchestra, although both forces integrate well during ensemble passages. The middle movement andante is notable for capturing a sense of space in the reading that never cloys, and in this respect the voicing of the piano line is of key importance. The brass come to the fore, though not unobtrusively so, in the last movement and the performance continues in its lightly-sprung vein until an ending that is most naturally arrived at. 

Turina’s Rapsodia Sinfonica is a somewhat different work in character, noticeably Spanish, and here the feeling for the idiom of the music comes through as strongly as before, as does the strength of interpretation. Anastasescu’s playing of the solo part again is noteworthy for the quality of execution, as indeed the London Schubert Players are for their spirited support under Alan Tongue’s direction. 

This CD brings a disparate quartet of works together with an innovative approach to programming, and as a result offers listeners the chance to enjoy the familiar alongside lesser known works that nonetheless demonstrate they are worthy of wider public circulation. The playing too is entirely to be recommended.
Evan Dickerson



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