Notes and Editorial Reviews
Embraces its historical lineage...luminous and pulsing.
This isn’t a new release. Maw’s Violin Concerto was written with Joshua Bell specifically in mind in 1993; the recording followed in September 1996. In the very enthusiastic sleeve-notes – I’m not sure how Maw feels about being described as a “genius” – great play is made of the work in relation to the Brahms Violin Concerto. Certainly it has a complex romantic affiliation but the composers’ names that occurred to me were those of Prokofiev and Walton. Not that Maw could be remotely taken to be either of them – but in its cultivation of an almost Italianate lyricism it does summon up the memory of Walton’s Mediterranean work and in its fusion of melodic beauty and
scherzo drama it must pay at least oblique, tangential historical homage to Prokofiev.
The Concerto is cast in four movements. It opens with ruminative slowness but then opens out into a flourishing, rich and luminous sound world, bedecked by manifold orchestral and solo felicities; those little orchestral lurches toward the end for instance. The second movement is indeed Walton-like in its vivacity but Maw’s control of lingering lyricism, finely woven into the work’s fabric, ensures seamless warmth from the current-swell of dynamism that he generates. The lodestones here are Prokofiev and Barber but they’re securely absorbed into Maw’s lyric modernist world. The powerful cadential passage over a sustained orchestral chord is followed by a muted upwards drift into orchestral nothingness, a Cherubini-like stroke of translucent and mysterious beauty.
Maw’s predilection for major chords – the C major especially – permeates the third movement. Harmonies are richly complex and there are elements of post-impressionism in the writing, as well glimmers of Berg; but over and above such composer-spotting moments, which are essentially incidental, is the sense of luminous quiet, the rapture, the specific and yet endless personal landscape that Maw evokes. And when he unleashes the finale it comes brimful with tunes, vibrant and exciting, richly orchestrated.
Throughout Bell plays with the romantic ardour that Maw identified – and so admires – in him. His playing manages to balance scrupulous cleanliness of attack with tonal warmth and pliant phrasing. Norrington marshals the LPO in assured, colouristically aware fashion and the recording does full justice to the enterprise.
The Maw is a concerto that embraces its historical lineage without being shackled by it. If you admire the Berg, Barber, Walton and Prokofiev concertos, and like orchestration that is both luminous and pulsing then this is the work for you.
-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin by Nicholas Maw
Joshua Bell (Violin)
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: by 1993
Date of Recording: 09/1996
Venue: Lyndhurst Hall, Air Studios, London
Length: 41 Minutes 50 Secs.
I. Prelude: Moderato tranquillo - Andante moderato
II. Scherzo: Vivace assai - Recitando
III. Romanza: Lento e calmo
IV. Finale: Allegro moderato e grazioso
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