This re-release of a 1997 recording on the budget Hyperion’s Helios
label features superb performances of two works.
The violin was Sir Alexander Mackenzie’s own instrument.
The Violin Concerto, which commences the disc, was commissioned
by the Birmingham Festival and was written mostly in Florence. It is dedicated
to Sarasate, who gave the premiere in 1885 with the composer
conducting. There were excellent reviews and much approbation
from the public. The Concerto opens with a rather introspective
and brooding yet nonetheless passionate Allegro non troppo
Here the soloist Malcolm Stewart captures the sense
of yearning and wistfulness rather well. The central cadenza
is particularly beautifully played – delicate and full of
feeling. It is a suitably romantic performance overall, with
playing from the soloist that is generally lush and rich although,
if any criticism must be made, Stewart is just slightly too
mechanical in the second movement Largo. There is a
lovely gipsyish air in the dancing third movement Finale,
which is based upon the Polish dance, the Krakowiak.
The Royal Scottish National Orchestra provide sensitive and
accomplished accompaniment under the astute direction of Vernon
The concerto is followed by the substantial Pibroch
Suite for violin and orchestra – composed at the request
of Sarasate, which was completed in Mackenzie’s home country
of Scotland. The word ‘pibroch’
means ‘pipe-music’, and Mackenzie himself described the suite
as “a Scottish effusion”. The second movement is a set of
variations on the Scottish melody Three Guid Fellows,
while the final movement, Dance, is based on a tune
from the seventeenth-century Skene Manuscript, Leslies
Lilt. It certainly sounds unmistakably Scottish and is
given a wonderfully lyrical performance by Malcolm Stewart,
with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra this time conducted
by David Davies.
Hyperion appear to have adopted Mackenzie. There
are two other Mackenzie discs in their stable: The Orchestral
Music: Cricket on the Hearth, Op 62, Twelfth Night, Op 40,
Benedictus, Op 37 No 3. Burns 'Second Scotch Rhapsody', Op
24 and Coriolanus, Op 61 (BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Martyn
Brabbins) on CDA66764 and Steven Osborne (piano), BBC Scottish
Symphony Orchestra and Martyn Brabbins in the Scottish Concerto,
Op 55 on CDA67023 coupled with the Tovey Piano Concerto.