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Mackenzie: Violin Concerto, Pibroch Suite / Stewart, Et Al

Release Date: 06/09/2009 
Label:  Helios   Catalog #: 55343   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Alexander Mackenzie
Performer:  Malcolm Stewart
Conductor:  Vernon HandleyDavid Davies
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 55 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MACKENZIE Violin Concerto. 1 Pibroch 2 Malcolm Stewart (vn); Vernon Handley, cond; 1 David Davies, cond; 2 Royal Scottish Natl O HELIOS 55343 (55:31)

Both David Johnson (22:1) and Martin Anderson (22: 2) reviewed Hyperion’s release of Alexander Mackenzie’s Violin Concerto and Read more style="font-style:italic">Pibroch suite (66975) in 1998 (the recordings took place on 2/19/1997 and 9/2/1997, respectively). Johnson liked the Concerto less well (he judged it too tame for Sarasate, who played it after Joachim, for whom it had been written, declined) than the suite (which he placed in the “same league” as Saint-Saëns’s First and Third Concertos, Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy , and Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole , which had also been dedicated to Sarasate). Anderson, on the other hand, considered the Concerto to be in the vein of Dvo?ák and “people like Bruch, Volkmann, and Raff”—replete with “wonderful, singable tunes for the violin soaring over orchestral textures finely judged to support it,” while he judged Pibroch “a stronger, more pointedly characterized work” that deserved a place in the repertoire. Johnson felt that Stewart rose above his concertmaster’s role more successfully than did another famous concertmaster whom he named and I won’t, while Anderson felt Stewart just equaled the demands Mackenzie placed upon him and certainly wasn’t Heifetz.

The continuation of the recordings in the catalog should give listeners a further chance to sample these works, both of which, according to the notes by Duncan Barker, Sarasate championed in his regular repertoire. If it isn’t quite Brahmsian, the Concerto at least strikes roots in the German Romantic literature as deep as Bruch’s, mining a similar rich harmonic vein in many passages, even if he doesn’t imprint his thematic material with as strong a character. The finale, according to John Purser, has the earmarks of a Kujawiak, and although Johnson didn’t hear it, violinists familiar with Wieniawski’s may. Stewart does seem to have trouble taming the finale’s difficulties (he sounds particularly edgy in the initial thematic section), but he generally plays with a secure tone and an idiomatic mastery of the work’s style. The three-movement Pibroch suite (Rhapsody, Caprice, and Dance), which many have paired with Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy as a vehicle for violinists, may not, despite their similarity, quite reach the mark set by that more familiar warhorse; still it’s an appealing piece with a solo part that offers more opportunities for display than does the Concerto, without rending the musical textures it has woven. Since its recording by Stewart, Rachel Barton Pine has included it in her collection of Scottish pieces (Çedille 83). In reviewing that compilation (which also included Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy , Sarasate’s Airs écosais , McEwen’s Scottish Rhapsody , “Prince Charlie,” and an original medley by Pine) in 29:1, I suggested that while Pine offered more brilliant technique, Stewart’s “robust romanticism or ethnic color” at least compensated for it. The recorded sound’s clear and well balanced, with the soloist set just a bit forward of the orchestral sound. Johnson’s preference for the enthusiasm Davies instilled in the Orchestra for the suite may have been a result of the musicians’ greater enthusiasm for the work itself. Recommended at least as strongly in reincarnation as I would have recommended it upon its first appearance.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin in C# minor, Op. 32 by Alexander Mackenzie
Performer:  Malcolm Stewart (Violin)
Conductor:  Vernon Handley
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1885; Scotland 
Pibroch Suite, Op. 42 by Alexander Mackenzie
Performer:  Malcolm Stewart (Violin)
Conductor:  David Davies
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1889; Scotland 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Neglected romantic violin music deserves a hearing June 18, 2012 By F. Bayerl (Ottawa, ON) See All My Reviews "I highly recommend this recording of music of Alexander Mackenzie to anyone who enjoys romantic music for the violin. The Violin Concerto is has fine melodies, excellent orchestration, and shows that the little-known composer has his own distinctive personality. All three movements are thoroughly enjoyable. It would make an excellent alternative to, for example, the Mendelssohn or Bruch concertos on a symphony program, and one can only wonder at its almost complete neglect for over a century. The Pibroch suite, also in three movements, shows the composer's Scottish nationalist vein and is more virtuosic in style. It too is eminently listenable. I find nothing to criticize in the performance of the soloist or orchestra in this admittedly unfamiliar repertory." Report Abuse
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