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Alan BUSH (1900-1995)
Violin Concerto (1948) [28.54]
Six Short Pieces (1983) [8.57]
Dialectic (1929) [14.12]
Manoug Parikian (violin)
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Norman Del Mar (concerto)
Alan Bush (piano) (pieces)
Medici String Quartet (Dialectic)
rec. BBC Maida Vale, Studio 1, 22 November 1983 (concerto); The Art Workers Guild, Queens Square, Holborn, London, 11 May 1984 (pieces)
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, 17 July 1984 (Dialectic)
CLAUDIO CB5151-2 [52.05]

This is not a new release – in fact it’s a re-release of a Hyperion LP – and it’s been reviewed on this site (see below). However, the chance to acquaint myself with the CD transfer has proved irresistible not least because it couples the Violin Concerto with one of the greatest works for quartet written by a British composer, Dialectic, and adds some brief piano pieces played by the composer.
The Violin Concerto of 1948 appeared during a decade that had produced a fair number of outstanding British works in the medium. The Bush is similarly fine. It opens with a cadential passage for the soloist, here the excellent Manoug Parikian, and answering Shostakovich-like passages from the orchestral pizzicati. Some brusquer writing leads onto lyrical plains – this is a really lyrical and at heart affectionate work – full of warmth and no trace of Bartók, who might have been assumed to be an influence. There is a feel of constant incident but no false heroics or bogus pyrotechnics. In a delightful symmetry reflective of the opening movement, the solo violin’s lead in the central Andante is met by legato lines from the orchestral strings. The writing is freely rhapsodic and expressive and is marvellously apposite, discreet and never draws unnecessary attention to itself. The finale is light-hearted with a sense of the Puckish about it; winds are warm, the soloist is athletic but not arid and never showy – and at a few points Bush seems almost to be stretching out his compositional pen to the lyric melancholy of popular song. In fact I think he is. Parikian and Del Mar deal with all these matters superbly.
Dialectic was written in the time of the primacy of the Cobbett Phantasy Quartet. It’s therefore in one movement and moves with absolute fluid assurance throughout its fourteen-minute length. Its moods are various and changeable, its archaisms and feints toward modal, Tallis Fantasia sonorities highly effective. The demands of in alt playing and crystalline trills are never to be taken for granted. The turbulence and reflective power of such a work never palls. The Medici sound inspired here. The Aeolian String Quartet recorded this on a pair of 78s for Decca – and you can never have too many recordings of it.  
Finally there is the pleasure of hearing Bush playing his own piano pieces – short and enjoyable morceaux.  They are variously Bachian, folkloric and witty.
The documentation consists of Peter Lamb’s Hyperion’s essay with a biographical note from Rachel O’Higgins. The music and performances are first class in every way.
Jonathan Woolf

see also reviews by Peter Grahame Woolf and Rob Barnett 


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