reissue programme here produces a coupling
which resolves a few challenges. We
have the Fricker and Banks issued in
the 1970s. Together they are too short
for a CD. Then again Morgan’s Contrasts
was added to a Lyrita anthology on SRCD.318
which left the Morgan Violin Concerto
orphaned and looking for a home which
it did not need when it was cosied up
to Contrasts on Lyrita LP SRCS97.
The result is a trio of three very different
concertos from the 1950s and 1960s unified
in these world premiere recordings by
hardly ever a star. He emerged in the
1950s and had his measure of premieres
but there was to be no major enduring
public coup. His reputation remains
something of an unglamorous quantity;
perhaps not helped by his decamping
to a Californian University from 1964.
He died in Santa Barbara. Not that geography
should have made any difference to his
The Concerto heard
here comes from a copiously productive
period between the First and Second
Symphonies – both recorded (RCA (not
reissued on CD), EMI)
– the Viola Concerto, the Piano Concerto
and the First Violin Sonata. In 1958
came his choral-orchestral piece, A
Vision of Judgement, premiered at
the Leeds Festival under Groves. Of
the little I know of his music this
‘oratorio’ has the mark of something
special. A mesmerising melodic fragment
from that work endures with me to this
The Fricker Violin
Concerto is the first of two. The second,
the unrecorded Rapsodia Concertante,
is from 1954. It has its moments
both intimate and dramatic. There are
touches here of the sultry Walton in
the middle movement. The outer two movements
have the bark and grit of Bartok and
the melodic contours of the first Rawsthorne
concerto but with the angularity chamfered
Morgan was an
even more peripheral figure. His only
finger-hold – and that a narrow one
- on public knowledge derives from the
Lyrita LP which made little impression
when first issued in the 1970s. His
Contrasts has only been well
received on its unshackled reissue a
couple of months ago as part of a multi-composer
Lyrita odds-and-sods collection [review
OF THE MONTH].
His three movement Violin Concerto is
more approachable than the Fricker.
Its roots are struck deep into the mulch
of Walton, Vaughan Williams and Szymanowski.
There is a devilish and skittering air
to the work in the middle movement.
Its layout is familiar: two slow movements
framing a Presto. Its mien is
such that one can easily imagine it
having been taken up by Heifetz in another
life and another time. The finale has
its episodes of military determination
mixed with a smilingly contented quasi-Bergian
dreamland (6:34) swept asunder by a
stomped out and bongo-goaded gale.
After studies in Melbourne
with Dorian Le Gallienne, Don Banks
founded the Australian Musical Association
in London. This he did with Margaret
Sutherland. Banks had been studying
in the UK with Matyas Seiber. Both Seiber
and Banks had a strong interest in the
shadowlands between Jazz and Classical.
Seiber co-wrote the Jazz Improvisations
for jazz ensemble and orchestra
with Johnny Dankworth in the 1950s.
Banks wrote a number of works in which
those two worlds collide. He studied
with Dallapiccola, Nono and Babbitt
and embraced serialism. The Violin Concerto
while tensely atmospheric is the most
‘extreme’ of the three concertos. Even
if you find the first movement difficult
to take Banks immerses the listener
in a fascinating iridescent Bergian
web in the Andante Cantabile.
However fragmented this music is – and
it is typically explosive, hesitant
and dysjunct – its sounds are always
expertly crafted; always in focus.
The liner-notes and
audio production values are typically
excellent. There are no crashed gears
between the British Council-derived
tapes (Banks, Fricker) and the Lyrita
original (Morgan). The performances
reflect a committed and expert advocacy.
A sometimes challenging, sometimes smiling
collection of concertos otherwise lost
to us in a beckoning vinyl Gehenna.