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Sainsbury, Wood: Violin Concertos / McAslan, Wordsworth

Sainsbury / Wood / Mcaslan / Wordsworth
Release Date: 05/11/2010 
Label:  Dutton Laboratories/Vocalion   Catalog #: 7245   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Lionel SainsburyHaydn Wood
Performer:  Lorraine McAslan
Conductor:  Barry WordsworthGavin Sutherland
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SAINSBURY Violin Concerto 1. WOOD Violin Concerto in a. 2 Violin Concerto in b: Adagio 2 Lorraine McAslan (vn); 1 Barry Wordsworth, 2 Gavin Sutherland, cond; BBC Concert O DUTTON CDLX 7245 (73:12)

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This pairing of two unabashedly romantic violin concertos—both premiere recordings but written some 60 years apart—is both appropriate and meaningfully instructive in reinforcing the primary power of melody as one of the essential foundations of most worthwhile musical expression.

While Lionel Sainsbury (b. 1958) felt that his 1989 concerto could comfortably fill an enormous format of 40 minutes’ duration, the earlier composer Haydn Wood (1882–1959), born in the waning years of the 19th century and dying just a year after Sainsbury’s birth, is content to have his say at almost half the length—some 26 minutes.

Although Wood made his fame and fortune as a writer of immaculate short orchestral “light” pieces and ballads which, like Roses of Picardy , acquired the status of popular evergreens, he always continued to think of himself as capable of the larger forms, as borne out by his exhilarating Piano Concerto (available on Hyperion) and the forceful Philharmonic Variations for cello and orchestra (recorded on ASV). This 1928 Violin Concerto is a mellifluous yet never cloyingly voluble admixture of late-Romantic Russo-Germanic lingua franca of the era couched in civilized and forthright English accents. Wood was an adept of the late-Victorian style, and anyone who enjoys the Coleridge-Taylor violin concerto will warm to this eloquently post-Elgarian work.

The Sainsbury, on the other hand, is considerably more grandiose and expansive (perhaps even occasionally self-indulgent) in its reinvigoration of the Bliss/Walton tradition, along with a strong injection of Malcolm Arnoldian repetitive scalar procedures often heard in the latter’s film scores. But the music is fraught with many interesting and appealing ideas, especially a jazzy main theme introduced early in the first movement that returns spectacularly in the finale. However, one cannot avoid questioning Sainsbury’s possible miscalculation in extending the finale to 18 minutes (almost half the length of the entire work) because what happens to the material stretched out over such a huge span is not always justifiable to this listener. Still, the material itself is more than pleasurable, and Sainsbury not only knows how to orchestrate but also gives his soloist plenty of interest to do up front.

The disc also includes a moderately moving Adagio from an earlier lost violin concerto written in 1905 by a youthfully ardent Haydn Wood.

Lorraine McAslan, who premiered the Sainsbury, gives breathtaking readings as to both tone and technique as well as total identification with the spirit of the scores. And she receives superb support from the wonderfully versatile BBC Concert Orchestra under both Barry Wordsworth and Gavin Sutherland.

While the relatively ugly likes of Adès, MacMillan, and Turnage receive the adoration of the cognoscenti, this release proves conclusively that beautiful and communicative music-making is alive and well. No lover of the English violin literature can afford to be without it.

FANFARE: Paul A. Snook


Here are two sturdy British violin concertos written some sixty years apart. Sainsbury was born one year before the death of Haydn Wood. You might have expected the styles of the two concertos to be dramatic but while differences are there they are not as marked as you might expect.
Lionel Sainsbury wrote the most recent work and also the most substantial. Sainsbury was born in Wiltshire. His instrument is the piano. He studied composition with Patrick Standford. I am particular intrigued by his intriguingly titled orchestral tone poem Time of the Comet. The chamber music includes various miniatures plus a full blown Violin Sonata. There’s a cello concerto. He is no stranger to MusicWeb reviews and both his orchestral Cuban Dance No. 2 and his Two Nocturnes have figured in compendia of small British pieces. His mastery of the piano solo bodes well for a piano concerto if ever he felt moved in that direction.
For now we have Sainsbury’s big-boned and generous-hearted 1989 Violin Concerto from the same forces who premiered it in a BBC Studio in 1995. It is in three movements. The first is an Allegro which launches with a chugging figure that quickly captures the imagination. The movement is Elgarian yet interlaced with Tippett-like motifs and the sort of nervy energy often associated with Constant Lambert. It sounds uncannily like the Walton concerto at 7:00. The central Andante mesto is touchingly tender and romantic in the manner of the Barber and Korngold yet spliced with the contemplative peace of Finzi’s Introit. The finale is an Allegro molto. This moves through episodes of rustling euphoria, marcato energy, stirring power (5:23 in tr 3 III), those Tippett-like cross-rhythms (returning at 12:20). Sainsbury has the faculty of writing music that accelerates with ineluctable passionate logic out of stilled contemplative pastures into triumph. The concerto ends with a husky reminiscence at 14:56 and moves onwards through a moment of Lark transcendence to a roughened and abrupt regal command over which the violin sears its way ever upwards. It’s a treasurable and magnificent work which loses nothing by being written in an idiom listeners will quickly recognise.
Haydn Wood was born in Slaithwaite, near Huddersfield on 25 March 1882. His claim to fame rested on the popular song Roses of Picardy (1916) one of many popular ballads he produced for his wife Clara Dorothy Court. He was named after Josef Haydn although he pronounced his name as in HAYdn. The family moved to the Isle of Man when Haydn was aged two. Wood studied the violin, initially with his brother Harry; another brother, Daniel, was a well known flautist who became one of the founders of the LSO. He then went to the RCM as a pupil of Stanford (composition) and Arbós (violin) for six years. He later studied with César Thomson in Brussels. He died in London on 11 March 1959.
He produced a prodigious amount of light orchestral music including fifteen suites, eight overtures and forty smaller works and pieces for orchestra. Lesser known sections of his catalogue feature a Phantasy String Quartet which won the Cobbett Second Prize in the first competition. There are four works for chorus and orchestra including Lochinvar (pre-1924, setting Scott's ‘Marmion’) and The Little Ships (1940, Dunkirk). Concertante works were not ignored. There are a Piano Concerto in D minor and the Philharmonic Variations - Theme and Variations for cello and orchestra premiered on 21 December 1939. Each has been recorded.
Haydn Wood was a violinist whose artistry impressed both Joachim and Sarasate. He made his début as a child violinist in the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in a concert in Douglas on the Isle of Man. His Violin Concerto in A minor (1928) was premiered by Antonio Brosa with the BBCSO conducted by Joseph Lewis on 1 March 1933. Even in 1928 the concerto was written against the fashionable direction of flow. The romantic idiom was in recession – rumoured by some to be dead - and a more neo-classical or jazzy style was in the ascendant. It’s a delightful work in three movements. The Allegro Moderato presents a very fluent stream of molten gold much in the manner of the Elgar concerto; perhaps a touch of the Miaskovsky. The Andante sostenuto is dreamy confection: Delius on the one hand and the Barber on the other. It’s caramel smooth and sweet. The finale is an Allegro giocoso which is all chuckling virtuosity and cheery good company. There’s impudence as well and an optimistic delight in virtuosity. The work ends sumptuously in a show-time sunburst. The isolated Adagio from the Violin Concerto in B minor (1905) is a sweet singer indeed – a thing of soothing calm. How superbly Haydn Wood weights and paces his music.
Throughout, Lorraine McAslan projects a real generosity of sound approaching the luxurious lava flow of tone I last encountered when Listening to Anne Sophie Mutter’s DG recording of the Korngold Concerto. She is the favoured choice over the two other versions of the Coleridge-Taylor concerto for much the same reason.
This disc shares the hard-won success of another Dutton collection of English violin concertos.
It’s strongly documented as befits two strong works written in captivating idioms that while not identical have more in common than you might expect.  

-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin, Op. 14 by Lionel Sainsbury
Performer:  Lorraine McAslan (Violin)
Conductor:  Barry Wordsworth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1989 
Concerto for Violin in A minor by Haydn Wood
Performer:  Lorraine McAslan (Violin)
Conductor:  Gavin Sutherland
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928 
Concerto for Violin in B minor: Adagio by Haydn Wood
Performer:  Lorraine McAslan (Violin)
Conductor:  Gavin Sutherland
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1905 

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