Elizabeth MACONCHY (1907–1994) Proud Thames (1952) a [5:58]
Symphony for Double String Orchestra (1953)b [21:50]
Serenata Concertante (1962)c [21:37]
Music for Strings (1983)d [18:21]
Manoug Parikian (violin)c
London Philharmonic Orchestra ad; London Symphony Orchestra bc;
Vernon Handley abc; Barry Wordsworth d
rec. no information provided, published 1972, 1982 and 2007 LYRITA SRCD288 [67:50]
rightly has a disc to herself in Lyrita’s re-release package,
which combines recordings made at long intervals in 1972,
1982 and 2007. The works are presented in chronological order,
starting with Proud Thames of 1952 and ending with Music
for Strings, which was written in 1983.
Thames is a confident, compact, assertive and brisk work
lasting six minutes. It opens with some flute dapple and
the reminiscences or at least sly allusions to Vltava are
not, surely, coincidental. But it has its own sense of self
and of place and the bristling directness of the writing
certainly invites thoughts that the Thames is no pushover.
One doesn’t find wedding parties on these banks.
Symphony for Double String Orchestra was written the following
year and is cast in four movements. Its rhythmic profile
is varied, its texture equally so, though it wears a stern
and unbending face as well. Manoug Parikian takes the solo
violin role well, especially when he’s pushed very high in
the Lento where the powerfully expressive writing is at its
most acute. Perhaps the most outstanding movement however,
not omitting the bustling scherzo, is the Passacaglia finale,
which has considerable gravity and weight splendidly realised
in this performance.
Serenata Concertante followed in 1962 is another strong four-movement
work. It’s rather Berg-like in the opening and opens out
with pizzicati, trumpet calls and strong lyrical curlicues.
The brass is again to the fore in the Scherzo along with
the percussion but the winds take on a rather more exotic
panoply; the solo violin even takes on a brief, folkloric
hue in the solo passages; strong echoes of Bartók here. Maconchy
again takes the violin exceptionally high in the slow movement -
and her shimmering orchestration gives the music an almost
phantasmagoric element – menacing and ominous. The start
of the finale sees the solo violin – Parikian again – picking
up on the Bartókian elements but as the movement progresses
the finely chiselled writing reverts to the Bergian impulses
of the opening, giving the Serenata a rewarding and satisfyingly
for Strings was a much later work, written in 1983. It flits
between the opening’s Bartókian Nocturne and a more refined,
rather aloof Mesto. Then it defenestrates expectation entirely
in the amazing finale, a compound of Copland, Bernstein,
ragtime, Robert Russell Bennett and goodness knows what else.
If you think you know your Maconchy you’d better be sure
that you know this movement.
provoking and extremely well played this is a valuable addition
to Maconchy on disc. Not always an easy listen, it’s true,
but all the more rewarding for it.
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