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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



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Peter Racine FRICKER (1920-1990)
Concerto for Violin and small Orchestra op. 11 (1950, rev. 1974) [23:25]
David MORGAN (1933-1988)

Violin Concerto (1966) [26:02]
Don BANKS (1923-1980)

Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1968) [26:55]
Yfrah Neaman (violin) (Fricker; Banks)
Erich Gruenberg (violin) (Morgan)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Norman Del Mar (Fricker; Banks); Vernon Handley (Morgan)
rec. July 1973, All saints, Tooting, London (Fricker, Banks); 28 April 1976, Kingsway Hall, London (Morgan). ADD
originally issued on LP: Argo ZRG 715 (Fricker, Banks); Lyrita SRCS97 (Morgan).
LYRITA RECORDED EDITION SRCD.276 [76:26]


Sound Sample Morgan Violin Concerto: Presto

Experience Classicsonline


Lyrita’s breathless 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 the RPO.

Fricker was 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 critical reception.

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 day.

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 somewhat.

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 RECORDING 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.

Rob Barnett

 

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