MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2023
Approaching 60,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing this from

Arnold BAX (1883-1953)
Phantasy for viola and orchestra (1920) [20:09]
William WALTON (1902-1983)
Viola Concerto (1929 version) [26:37]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Suite for viola and orchestra (1933–34) [26:06]
Hong-Mei Xiao (viola)
Budapest Symphony Orchestra MÁV/János Kovács
rec. Studio 22, Hungarian Radio, Budapest, 2014
DELOS DE3486 [73:10]

Three works by British composers, each for viola and orchestra but only one dubbed a Concerto. Avoidance of that term is justified in the case of the Vaughan Williams which is a series of instantly engaging and artfully limned mood miniatures. As for the Bax Phantasy it could have been called a 'Concerto' and no-one would have blinked. These scores, written between the two world wars, have poetry aplenty and, in the case of the Bax and RVW, drama puts in an appearance from time to time.

Hong-Mei Xiao has a stirring broad tone and her instrument is recorded with close-up impact. Neither does the orchestra - familiar from various Naxos productions (Rozsa, Weiner, Zador) - lack vibrant power. Their Naxos Bloch CD centres on the viola and features the same violist so they clearly have some familiarity with each other. The Bax piece has a singing beauty that is both wild and hoarse and this recording is excellent. Choosing is thankfully irrelevant as each disc on which the Phantasy features is differently coupled. The competition includes Golani (Conifer), Chase (Dutton alongside the same RVW Suite) and the all-Bax disc from Dukes (Chandos). The Delos Phantasy epitomises success in its surrender to Bax's romantic sun-soaked peace (13:00-14.00) as well as his martial kinetic excitement. The performance has great torque with an eager response to the mercurial mood shifts. There is much to enjoy here. The work's last few moments make a link I should have made before: it's with Moeran, whose dust-raising jig in his Violin Concerto may well have picked up a few ideas from the Phantasy.

The Walton work, alongside the same composer's Cello Concerto, has always been a Cinderella for me and has rarely caught inspirational fire. Even if it falls a few rungs short of a BBC concert performance I once heard from Walter Trampler, this Delos version rebuts my expectations of something low key as much as the equally problematic yet triumphant Walton Cello Concerto on Lyrita. I have heard more electrifying versions of the last movement, but this is pretty good.

In the Vaughan Williams work nothing outstays its welcome. Rather like the same composer's Six Studies in English Folk Song from six years earlier and Finzi's clarinet Bagatelles this is an irresistibly toothsome collection of eight movements. The Prelude is utterly enchanting, the Christmas Dance goes with a rasp and a wheeze, the Ballad (5:33) is pastoral-rhapsodic and Howellsian in its warmth and the chattering impatience of the Moto Perpetuo is like Parisian Martinů at his most sec. The Musette registers as another Finzian carol with its steady harp ostinato. The Polka Mélancolique is filed to a very satisfying harshness - close to what we hear in the Bax Phantasy. The chatter of the closing Galop recalls the gymnastics of the Tuba Concerto. It makes a perfunctory ending but that's my only reservation. If you are interested, the same Suite can be heard in quite different viola couplings from Frederick Riddle on Chandos, Power on Hyperion, Callus on ASV and Chase on Dutton.

There's a lot going for this collection: conviction from the musicians, well documented and sporting immediate sound.

Rob Barnett
Previous review: Gary Higginson



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing