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CASKEN Violin Concerto

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Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)      
Fantasia on “Greensleeves” - Sir John in Love’ (1924-8) [4:29]
Concerto for Oboe and Strings in A minor (1944) [18:37]
Concerto for Tuba and orchestra in F minor (1954) [11:37] *
The Lark Ascending (1914) [13:29]
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
Two Pieces for Small Orchestra (1911-12): On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring [7:12]; Summer Night on the River [5:41]
Two Aquarelles arranged Eric Fenby (1932) [5:00]
Fennimore and Gerda – Intermezzo (1910) [5:50]
William WALTON (1902-1983)
Two Pieces from Henry V (1944) – Passacaglia; Death of Falstaff [2:47]; Touch her soft lips and part [2:07]
Neil Black (oboe)
Arnold Jacobs (tuba)
Pinchas Zukerman (violin)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Daniel Barenboim *
English Chamber Orchestra/Daniel Barenboim
rec. Brent Town Hall, London, July 1973 (Lark, Greensleeves, Walton), Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, Hamburg, May 1974 (Delius),George Watson’s College, Edinburgh, September 1975 (Oboe Concerto) and Orchestra Hall, Chicago, March 1977 (Tuba Concerto)
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON ELOQUENCE 442 8333 [77:25]



All the performances here are presided over by Daniel Barenboim, then in the thick of his British Music commitments, with the E.C.O. - and the Chicago Symphony in the case of Vaughan Williams’s Tuba Concerto. This last was recorded in 1977 but the bulk of the performances date from 1973-75 and were made in a rich array of locations; Brent Town Hall, London, George Watson’s College, Edinburgh and Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, Hamburg. One for connoisseurs of less well-known acoustics I’d have thought.
 
Barenboim’s VW is forthright and convincing. The Oboe Concerto has the advantage of Neil Black, an eloquent soloist. It’s a well-balanced recording as well, allowing the agile Black to be deftly supported by the E.C.O and to flutter, lark-like, when necessary. There’s real elegance and impressive candour at the climax of the finale. Talking of birds we also have Zukerman’s well-known Lark Ascending. It’s a shade too muscular for my taste, the vibrato just too clogged and the portamenti too noticeable for comfort. Try, if you will, from 10:20 when the sense of cosmopolitan varnish is just too strong. Better this, really, than the Kennedy/Rattle pudding but no competition for Bean or Brown. Arnold Jacobs is the soloist in the Tuba Concerto and he vests the work with just the right amount of pawky humour. Possibly he’s over prominent in the balance – in fact he’s most definitely over-projected – but this is only a problem in the finale, which is otherwise well managed. 
 
Barenboim’s Delius is not as consistently enjoyable as his Vaughan Williams. The Two Pieces for Small Orchestra are pliantly done but not otherwise especially illuminating and the Two Aquarelles don’t really show the conductor as having much sympathy for the idiom. I’d have preferred some more adventurously programmed VW – it would have been interesting to hear how Barenboim handled the middle period symphonies for instance. The Walton is the well known music from Henry V.
 
The best performed and most rewarding of these performances are the two concertos. Elsewhere things are rather unbalanced and uneven. Both concerti are up against plentiful competition, Catelinet/Barbirolli, Harrild/Thomson and Fletcher/Previn – just three on offer – in the case of the Tuba Concerto and a larger number for the Oboe work in which you’d hardly omit Rothwell/Barbiriolli or Small/Handley.
 
So, some pleasures but also some longeurs.
 
Jonathan Woolf 
 



 


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