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Christopher BALL (b. 1936)
Violin Concerto (2008) [35:58]
From the Hebrides [18:39]
Five Bagatelles [11:19]
Celtic Twilight [8:31]
Thomas Gould (violin); Leslie Craven (clarinet); Paul Arden-Taylor (oboe, cor anglais, recorder); Celia Birkinshaw (bassoon)
Emerald Concert Orchestra/Christopher Ball
rec. July 2008, All Saints Church, Weston Super Mare. DDD
Experience Classicsonline

This is the second Christopher Ball disc to come my way. The first included the very attractive Clarinet Concerto. There is also an anthology of his work on the Pavane label.

The Violin Concerto is his seventh concerto. His last two (cello and horn) are to be recorded this year (2009). The work brims with life and sings very broadly speaking in an English pastoral idiom. It's a big confident voice aided here by a recording that has no false modesty. After an elegiac Largo in which a cargo of irresistible and dappled regret is carried back and forward from orchestral strings to woodwind. The final Allegro skips and capers with the uninhibited rhythmic drive of the Irish fiddler. This is intensified by the in-your-face recording balance.

The Five Bagatelles for wind trio move from a sauntering cheeky Poulencian Humoresque to a singing Pastorale to a hiccupping carousel Waltz, to Mozartean A la baroque and a playful Country Dance. This is a modern cassation or serenade.

The delectable five movements that make up From the Hebrides recall the Hebridean song-settings of Eddie McGuire. Paul Arden-Taylor plays recorder, cor anglais and recorder. Graceful woodwind and slowly glittering harp figures pay tribute to Ball's early affection for the Hebridean settings by Marjorie Kennedy-Fraser.

After the Celtic far periphery it seems a natural fall of the trajectory to come to the Celtic Twilight. Noises that hurt not and more ... noises that charm. It is a delight that there is room for such music in the catalogue. The balance and closely breathy embrace of the studio tends towards the claustrophobic. However the music swells agreeably to meet the pleasingly close humidity of this sound image.

Deeply attractive music - an instant winner.

Rob Barnett



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