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Concertos Parlando
Balys DVARIONAS (1904-1974)

Pezzo Elegiaco - By the Lake (1946) [5:17]
Rodion SHCHEDRIN (b. 1932)
Concerto Parlando for violin, trumpet and strings (2012) [23:10]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Five Melodies op. 35 bis (1921, 1925, 2001) [13:11]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Violin Concerto op. 35 (1874) [35:35]
Philippe Graffin (violin)
Martin Hurrell (trumpet)
National Philharmonic Orchestra of Lithuania/Robertas Servenikas
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Mikhail Agrest (Tchaikovsky)
rec. BBC Maida Vale Studio 1, 2008 (Tchaikovsky); Lithuanian National Philharmonic Hall, 2012

This is a disc that sings ardently for its supper. It takes its overarching name from the Concerto by Shchedrin. A higher ranking could have been secured if Cobra had found a more enterprising alternative to the Tchaikovsky; not that there is anything wrong with the Tchaikovsky. Philippe Graffin has already won his spurs for exploring rarities and recording them (Milford, Coleridge-Taylor, Gaubert, French rarities). He continues that line here with Dvarionas, Shchedrin and Prokofiev.

The succulent yearning of the Dvarionas is sweet and melancholic without being lachrymose or Kreisler-caramel. It has about it something of Saint-SaŽns' Havanaise and certainly lives up to the 'elegiaco' part of its title. It would work nicely alongside Goossens' slightly more oblique orchestral piece, By the Tarn. It was only recently that I was reviewing a Naxos Dvarionas disc that programmed this piece in its version for violin and piano.

The Shchedrin Concerto parlando is for solo violin, trumpet and strings. The trumpet's brilliance recalls and is perhaps recalling that elite Soviet trumpeter Timofei Dokschitser - an Edition devoted to this musician is way overdue. The Shchedrin is in three movements and is in a slightly tart, sour and disillusioned idiom. Occasionally indulging a light touch, no one is going to mistake this for saccharine. It's certainly more savoury than the Dvarionas. The finale seems to reference the solo trumpet writing of Scriabin's Poem of Ecstasy. This is a moody work where display is subservient to mood. The order of the day is oblique exploration, sideways glances, mixed messages, half groan and half shrug.

The Prokofiev pieces are familiar as a set of miniatures for violin and piano. They have been recorded fairly often, notably by David Oistrakh. It's good to hear them in these versions with orchestra. Orchestrations for all but the Lento are by Shchedrin. Those orchestrations are well in character, sounding more like Prokofiev than Shchedrin's usual wily gunpowder and work most harmoniously with not a jarring note. These are soft and sweet. Graffin also brings us an original Prokofiev orchestration of the Lento, the second piece of the five. These works are more closely related to the world of the First Violin Concerto than to anything later. They would work well alongside the Sibelius Humoresques such is their fairytale fantasy - especially scintillating and yearning in the final andante (tr. 9).

For all of my backbiting about the inclusion of the Tchaikovsky credit goes to Cobra and Graffin for letting us hear his Tchaikovsky rather than giving us a 43-minute disc. This Tchaikovsky recording has the distinction of being heard here for the first time with Ysaˇe's cadenza. This, very sensibly, enjoys its own track. While Graffin is not going to supplant my entrenched favourites (Oistrakh and Kogan) this is considered and by no means run-of-the-mill. It delivers rewards aplenty across an amply filled disc. Graffin lovers of today and tomorrow will be amongst those revelling in this disc.

These are world premiere recordings of the Shchedrin and the Prokofiev.

The good music notes are by Graffin. These are in English and French as well as profiles of the artists.

Credit to Cobra for dedicating this disc to the memory of the French violinist Devy Erlih who deserves one of Warner EMI's Icon boxes. What are the chances of that happening?

Rob Barnett


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