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Sir Alexander MACKENZIE (1847-1935)
Violin Concerto op. 32 (1884) [31:24]
Pibroch Suite op. 42 (1889) [23:45]
Malcolm Stewart (violin)
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Vernon Handley (Violin Concerto)/David Davies (Pibroch Suite)
rec. Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, 19 February, 2 September 1997
Experience Classicsonline

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 Handley. 

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. 

Em Marshall




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