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Banks, Morgan, Fricker: Violin Concertos / Neaman, Gruenberg

Release Date: 06/10/2008 
Label:  Lyrita   Catalog #: 276   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Peter Racine FrickerDavid [British ] MorganDon Banks
Performer:  Yfrah NeamanErich Gruenberg
Conductor:  Norman Del MarVernon Handley
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 16 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

FRICKER Violin Concerto. 1 MORGAN Violin Concerto. 2 BANKS Violin Concerto 3 Yfrah Neaman (vn); 1,3 Erich Gruenberg (vn); 2 Norman Del Mar, cond; 1,3 Vernon Handley, cond; 2 Read more class="ARIAL12"> Royal PO LYRITA 276, analog (76:26)

Yfrah Neaman recorded Peter Racine Fricker’s Concerto (from 1950) and Don Banks’s Concerto (from 1968) in July 1973; Erich Gruenberg recorded David Morgan’s Concerto (from 1966) on April 28, 1976. Lyrita has remastered these performances for their appearance on CD.

Fricker’s Concerto may be largely free from centers around which its harmonies can revolve, but its melodic writing (and, as a result, its exceptionally grateful solo part), its colorful instrumentation (for “small orchestra”), it’s rhythmic conservatism, its drama, and the relationship it establishes between solo and orchestra all recall an earlier era. These aspects of the work make it accessible on first hearing. The violin and the orchestral instruments, for example, engage in a motivic dialogue that can be followed even as it unfolds. The violin part for the most part hews closer to the line of the 20th century’s earlier concertos than it does to works by Schoenberg and Webern; and this steady glance backwards should make the work approachable by good violinists and richly reward reasonable investments of study time. Neaman plays Fricker’s Concerto as though it stood squarely in the tradition of Bartók, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, and even Berg, with a large tone that stands out above that of the orchestra (a result, as well, of course, of Fricker’s careful workmanship). Like the other concertos in the compilation, it comprises three movements, in this case moderate-slow-fast, another nod to traditional patterns. The recording spotlights the soloist, with some loss of clarity, though not balance, in the orchestral part.

Morgan’s Concerto draws the solo part out of initial orchestral mists. The tonality may be extended, but it’s firm in the first movement, sometimes recalling as lush a composer as Korngold; the style itself evokes a compositional personality by turns as acerbic as Walton’s and as lyrical as—well, Walton’s. In fact, the Concerto generally resembles Walton’s, not least in the order of its movements (slow-fast-slow—the finale picks up speed soon after the opening) and in the exceptionally idiomatic writing for the solo violin. It’s hard to imagine a more commanding soloist than Gruenberg in this piece, and he receives colorful, energetic orchestral support and a clean and detailed recording, which places him center stage but gives the brass a sharp bite. He’s ruminative in the first movement, flashes like trout in a stream in the Presto, punctuated with episodic aggressive passagework that recalls Bartók’s. Those willing to peek a bit ahead of Walton’s ingratiating works for violin and viola should find Morgan’s Concerto most rewarding, and it’s hard to see why violinists wouldn’t snap it up. It lasts almost a full half-hour, but it remains consistently interesting throughout, and time progressively melts away as it draws the listener deeper inside.

Banks’s Concerto, the most conspicuously avant-garde and least accessible of the three, nevertheless from the outset engages the listener’s sense of color and drama. Its melodies may be less conjunct, its harmonies unrelated to tonality (Conway calls Banks an “instinctive atonalist”), and the double-stops of its violin-writing less apt to proceed even in chromatic steps, but the instrumental interplay remains fascinating (Paul Conway’s booklet notes call the second movement an “interrupted cadenza”). Yfrah Neaman sounds as much a master of the work’s advanced idiom as of Fricker’s relatively more conservative one.

As time has passed, these works have receded further into the past; while their language has become current, they themselves have remained unfamiliar. More’s the pity, because they have a great deal to offer to both performers and listeners. Enthusiastically recommended.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin, Op. 11 by Peter Racine Fricker
Performer:  Yfrah Neaman (Violin)
Conductor:  Norman Del Mar
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1950; England 
Length: 23 Minutes 24 Secs. 
Concerto for Violin by David [British ] Morgan
Performer:  Erich Gruenberg (Violin)
Conductor:  Vernon Handley
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1966; Czechoslovakia 
Length: 25 Minutes 7 Secs. 
Concerto for Violin by Don Banks
Performer:  Yfrah Neaman (Violin)
Conductor:  Norman Del Mar
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1968; Australia 
Length: 26 Minutes 7 Secs. 

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