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Creith, Arnell, Pitfield: Violin Concertos / Yates, Mcaslan

Release Date: 04/14/2009 
Label:  Dutton Laboratories/Vocalion   Catalog #: 7221   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Guirne CreithRichard ArnellThomas Pitfield
Performer:  Lorraine McAslan
Conductor:  Martin Yates
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 4 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CREITH Violin Concerto in g. PITFIELD Concerto lirico. ARNELL Violin Concerto in One Movement Lorraine McAslan (vn); Martin Yates, cond; Royal Scottish Natl O DUTTON 7221 (63: 38)

It wouldn’t be surprising if you’ve never heard of Gladys Mary Cohen (1907–1996). She reinvented herself under the exotic name Guirne Creith during her student years at the Royal Academy of Music. She Read more reinvented herself, in fact, several times during her lengthy life: first, as a struggling but successful composer; then as a concert pianist and pupil of Edwin Fischer. This was followed by a brief singing career, after an accident left her with a permanently injured right hand. When this didn’t work out particularly well, she became a teacher of piano, and finally an authority on French food and wine. Her Violin Concerto was premiered in a 1936 live BBC broadcast with Albert Sammons as soloist and Constant Lambert at the helm. When performers of this level take major roles in a debut, their presence in itself constitutes high praise, but the Violin Concerto then vanished, along with most of Creith’s music. This piece, at least, reappeared in handwritten full score after the composer’s death, with markings and a few corrections noted by Lambert. It is a full-blown concerto based on the French model, in a style that recalls the later Russian Romantics, such as Glazunov and Arensky. There’s no trace of English folksong influence, save perhaps in the singularly rhapsodic character associated with the violinist’s part throughout. With its attractive, sharply contoured themes, melodic outpouring, colorful orchestration, and taut writing, Creith’s concerto is a major find. The judgment of musical authorities that embraced the Darmstadt School’s dodecaphonic orthodoxy and consigned music like this to obscurity for generations shouldn’t obscure its very real quality.

Much the same can be said of the Concerto lirico of Thomas Pitfield (1903–1999). The composer was William Morris-like in his many talents, which included composition, teaching, book illustration, art prints, folk-song translations, cabinetry, and a lifelong interest in vegetarianism and environmental concerns. His music is very much in the English folk-song tradition, and well deserving of its “lyrical” title. The Concerto is structured as a single, continuous movement that falls into the usual three sections; and if the finale is slightly too long and repetitive to sustain its otherwise fine material, the central elegy possesses a fine, melancholy eloquence.

It was actually the chance to hear the Violin Concerto of Richard Arnell (b. 1917) that first piqued my interest in this album. Yet in the end, I find it the least successful of the three works presented here. Dating from 1940, it reveals the same influence of Hindemith that his Sinfonia quasi variazioni of the following year would show, but suffers from some perfunctory development and a lack of tonal and orchestral color. A few more years would make all the difference for Arnell, whose recognizable style makes an early appearance in the Symphony No. 1 of 1943 (Dutton 7217).

There is nothing perfunctory about Lorraine McAslan’s performance, though. She combines a poised, aristocratic tone with technical command and musicality of a high order. The Royal Scotish National Orchestra, too, is in fine form. Only Yates seems over-parted. As usual, he organizes and leads well enough, but without quite the energy and focus needed to put the best face on Arnell’s gray stretches and Pitfield’s loquaciousness. However, the engineering is good, as are the liner notes by Katharine Copisarow (Creith), John Turner (Pitfield), and Lewis Foreman (Arnell). Definitely recommended for at least two of the entrées, with a side order of more, please.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin, Op. 9 "In one movement" by Richard Arnell
Performer:  Lorraine McAslan (Violin)
Conductor:  Martin Yates
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: New York City, New Y 
Length: 19 Minutes 15 Secs. 
Notes: Audio Engineer: Dexter Newman.
Audio Producer: Michael Ponder.
Composition written: New York City, New York (03/25/1940 - 06/27/1940). 
Concerto for Violin in G minor by Guirne Creith
Performer:  Lorraine McAslan (Violin)
Conductor:  Martin Yates
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Concerto for Violin "Lirico" by Thomas Pitfield
Performer:  Lorraine McAslan (Violin)
Conductor:  Martin Yates
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1958; England 

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