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Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Suite for viola and orchestra (1934) [26:45]
Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)
Rhapsody-Concerto for viola and orchestra (1952) [19:26]
Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)
Trauermusik, for viola and string orchestra (1936) [7:11]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Lachrymae for viola and piano Op.48 (1950/76) [14:47]
Timothy Ridout (viola)
Lausanne Chamber Orchestra/Jamie Phillips
rec. 2019, Salle Métropole, Lausanne
CLAVES 50-3000 [69:05]

Works for viola and orchestra aren’t especially easy to programme on disc, but the young British violist Timothy Ridout has selected a broadly mid-twentieth century quartet, running chronologically from Vaughan Williams in 1934 to Martinů in 1952. Three of the works were associated with outstanding proponents of the instrument; Lionel Tertis in the case of Vaughan Williams’ Suite, William Primrose in Britten’s Lachrymae and Hindemith himself in his own Trauermusik. Martinů’s Rhapsody-Concerto was premiered by Jascha Veissi, for whom it was written.

Crisply accompanied by the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra under Jamie Phillips, Ridout manoeuvres deftly around VW’s Suite, locating with unerring accuracy its Bachian and pastoral affiliations alike, his viola forward but well-balanced. He plays the Carol movement directly, the Christmas Dance with verve and warmth. The Ballad certainly evokes The Lark Ascending and Ridout’s tender phrasing in the Musette and driving energy in the Galop that ends the eight pieces – cast in three groups – is delightful.

The Rhapsody-Concerto is fast becoming a repertory piece. Though there is bloom in the hall, which helps to inflate the orchestra’s sound, this is still a chamber accompaniment and in the lower strings larger orchestras bring a slightly greater bass extension. That said there’s fine wind detailing in this clear-eyed account and Ridout proves not to be too elastic a phraser, or one prone to exaggeration. He plays with expressive generosity and one can hear him dig into the strings at certain points. Listen out for his diminuendi too in the molto adagio passage just before the cadenza. That said, my current-day marker remains Maxim Rysanov with the BBC Symphony and Jiří Bělohlávek on BIS SACD BIS-2030, not least for Rysanov’s variety and breadth of tone.

Ridout certainly takes a brisk approach to the Hindemith though it’s a measure of his canniness as a soloist that it doesn’t sound too rushed and he maintains a proper balance between the music’s turbulence and its refinement, its extroversion and its elegy. Britten orchestrated Lachrymae a few months before his death in 1976. I strongly prefer the piano-accompanied original but it’s fascinating to hear in the first appearance of Dowland’s theme how the strings here evoke the sound of an Elizabethan consort. It adds a moving reminiscent quality to a distinguished reading.

There are many rivals to individual works but no direct competitor so far as I’m aware for all four. Kristina Fialová coupled the Hindemith and Martinů works but added the same composers’ sonatas for the instrument to create a satisfying conspectus on Sound Trust OUT095. But Ridout’s crisp, youthful take on the quartet of viola works is very welcome.

Jonathan Woolf

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