Hyperion do not shill-shally around. They could so easily have blanched at the perceived risks of issuing a CD of two completely unknown half hour British violin concertos. The alterative was to have harnessed one with a better known or even famous concerto in the time-honoured fashion. Their resolve has not failed them and so we have here three unknown works by two unknown composers – allowing for the Cliffe CD of the First Symphony on Sterling. The chosen soloist is Philippe Graffin who has already won his spurs with the first recording issued of the Coleridge Taylor concerto (Avie) not to mention fine projects with Hyperion: the three Saint-Saens concertos, the Breville and Canteloube collection and another disc including the Goldmark suite and the sumptuous Bruno Walter sonata.
The Paris-born D’Erlanger was a naturalised Brit with affluent banking connections who wrote among much else operas (one of these is on Hardy’s Tess) and a range of ambitious works including a Requiem Mass and a Concerto Symphonique for piano and orchestra – perhaps influenced by Litolff’s two examples under the same name. is Brahmsian in character. It’s first movement is from a composer clearly impressed by Brahms’ First Symphony, Violin Concerto and especially with the Tragic Overture. Although it has its delightfully sighing points of contact with the Dvorák concerto it is no stranger to romantic storms. Then again the Andante has a Balakirev-Oriental accent and a hint of birdsong. Mendelssohn and Bruch play carefree throughout the whirlwind finale. D’Erlanger’s Poëme is lushly romantic – tantamount to Korngold and not that far distant from the Delius Violin Concerto. It’s very enjoyable. Cliffe was born at Lowmoor near the city of Delius’s birth, Bradford. His Concerto with its first movement’s unstemmable flow of lyrical release reminded me of the Delius concerto. Its more Victorian accent makes a natural connection with the apollonian Beethoven Violin Concerto. The Andante is very touching indeed and makes a good match for the Andante of the D’Erlanger work. The finale begins in magisterial mystery – quietly tense – and from this emerges a dancing showpiece of an Allegro which recalls the great Spanish-inflected works of the age notably the Lalo Symphonie Espagnole. Each of these pieces has a human face. They are far from being vehicles for mere display. A real emotional narrative energises the invention of these two composers.
Lewis Foreman’s essay about d’Erlanger and Cliffe is fascinating and whets the appetite for more works from each of these two intriguing yet forgotten figures. You can read an article about Cliffe on this site.
Two delightful, exciting and often touching concertos presented with total conviction and every appearance of unfaltering technique. If you are already an adherent of the violin concertos by Bruch, Tchaikovsky and the others mentioned above then don’t miss out on this. These two are every bit as good as the de Boeck, the Karlowicz, the Garofalo and the Ivanovs.
HYPERION’S ROMANTIC VIOLIN CONCERTO SERIES
4: Moszkowski & Karlowicz
5: Coleridge-Taylor & Somervell
7: Arensky & Taneyev
Volume 8: Vieuxtemps (not yet reviewed here)
D' ERLANGER, Baron Frédéric [Paris, 29.5.1868 - London,
From the prominent family of French bankers. Private music lessons
otherwise self-taught. Composer and opera director. Adopted
nom-de-plume in 1897. Made London his home. Became a director
of Covent Garden.
Opera: Jehan de Saintre (2 acts, Aix-les-Bains 1.8.1893,
Hamburg, 1894); Inez Mendo (appeared under pseudonym of Fred
Regnal, 4 acts, Covent Garden, London, 10.7.1897); Tess (after
Thomas Hardy, 4 acts, San Carlo Theatre, Naples, 10.4.1906,
then Covent Garden, 14.7.1909); Noël (2 acts, Paris, Opéra Comique,
28.12.1910, Théatre Municipal, Nice, 1912, Chicago 1913);
Ballet: Les Cent Baisers (24.5.1936 BBCSO/Adrian Boult)
Choral: Requiem Mass (27.2.1931, BBCSO/Stanford Robinson).
Orchestra: Suite Symphonique Nos 1 and 2 (Proms 1895);
Symphonic Prelude, Sursum Corda (Prom 1919); Prelude Lyrique
(16. 1.1933 BBCSO/Anthony Lewis)
Concerto: Violin Concerto Op. 17 (London, 12.3.1903,
RPS, Kreisler); Concerto Symphonique for piano and orch. (1921);
Andante Symphonique for cello and orch. (Proms 1904)
Chamber: Piano Quintet; String Quartet; Violin Sonata.
CLIFFE, Frederick [Lowmoor, near Bradford, Yorkshire, 2.5.1857
- London, 19.11.1931]
Pianist and organist. In childhood received musical tuition
from his father who was an amateur cellist. He was an accomplished
pianist at the age of six. At nine he began to study the organ
and went on at the age of eleven to an appointment as the organist
at Wyke Parish Church. At the age of twelve he is reported to
have been able to play Bach's forty-eight Preludes and Fugues.
He was also gifted with a fine voice. Later appointed organist
to a dissenting chapel. He was in great demand to inaugurate
newly-installed organs. He was organist to the Bradford Festival
Choral society from 1873 to 1876. Cliffe was elected to the
Titus Salt Scholarship at the National Training School of Music
in London and there studied with Franklin Taylor, Ebenezer Prout,
John Stainer and Arthur Sullivan. Cliffe was appointed to the
piano staff of the newly established RCM and remained with the
College on the Board of Professors until his death. His distinguished
pupils at the College included John Ireland and Arthur Benjamin.
Cliffe's son Cedric Cliffe (1902-1969) provided the libretti
for several of Arthur Benjamin's operas. Tours were undertaken
both as accompanist and as solo pianist. He toured with Helen
Lemmens Sherrington. Became organist at Curzon Chapel, then
St Georges Albemarle Street. The Leeds Festival also retained
him in this capacity where he acted as Arthur Sullivan's and
Frederick Sparke's assistant. He played the organ at the Leeds
performance of Sullivan's Golden Legend and arranged
and played the organ part in the first performance there of
Bach's B minor Mass. He retired from his church music appointments
in 1889. He became organist for the Bach Choir 1888-1894. At
the same time he held similar appointments at the Italian Opera,
Drury Lane, Her Majesty's and Covent Garden Theatres. His Op.
1 a fine symphony in C minor was rejected by the Leeds selection
committee but this notwithstanding it attracted a great deal
of interest when premièred in London. He ceased composing after
1905. Writing in the mid-1920s Sir Dan Godfrey in his Music
and Memories refers to his retirement from composition:
"He was not cast in the mould of a fighter and as a result
he has, I feel, unwisely, retired from the struggle". Aside
from his longstanding connection with the RCM, he was also a
Professor of Piano at the RAM. He was an Examiner on the Associated
Board of the RAM and RCM. In this connection he toured overseas
(1898, Australia; 1900 and 1903, South Africa). The South African
tour was on behalf of the Cape of Good Hope University. He also
travelled in the U.S.A.
Vocal: Ode to the North-East Wind for chorus and orchestra
(1905, Sheffield Festival); Scena, The Triumph of Alkestis for
contralto and orchestra (Norwich Festival, 1902, Clara Butt,
RPS, composer, 14.5.1903);
Symphony: Symphony No. 1 in C minor (1889, Crystal Palace,
August Manns, 6.6.1890, RPS cond Cliffe, and Bournemouth Nov
1916); Symphony No. 2 in E minor (1892, Leeds Festival, first
London performance RPS, 23.3.1893 cond. composer and Bournemouth,
Concerto: Violin Concerto in D minor (1896, Norwich Festival,
first London Performance, RPS, Tivadar Nachez cond. composer,
Orchestra: Tone Poem, Cloud and Sunshine (1890, first
performance, Royal Philharmonic Society, 22.5.1890 and 24.3.1892
also RPS); Coronation March (Westminster Abbey, Coronation George