Notes and Editorial Reviews
Violin Concerto. Viola Concerto. Cello Concerto
Tamas Andras (vn); Sarah-Jane Bradley (vl); Alice Neary (vc); George Vass, cond; O Nova
DUTTON EPOCH CDLX 7257 (67:13)
The Englishman Paul Patterson (b.1947) has always been a difficult composer to get a handle on. This is in part due to the fact that, up until about 1980, he had blazed a reputation as a flamboyant avant-gardist but with some measure of subterranean populist tendencies. In fact, at times there seemed to be an echo of Malcolm Arnold’s
defiant obstreperousness but without the easygoing tunefulness. Somewhat like his teacher Richard Rodney Bennett (who is only 11 years his senior), around 1980 Patterson abruptly veered away from his youthful self-indulgent
épater le bourgeois
stance toward a more conventionally communicative manner. Perhaps this had something to do with his becoming a prominent figure at the Royal Academy of Music, but in any case the large and enormously diversified catalog of works he has compiled over the past three decades contains a number of outstandingly well-crafted scores, including these three concertos.
Among other examples: an invigoratingly flashy Sinfonia for Strings (once available on a Royal Philharmonic recording); a smashingly energetic Concerto for Orchestra (once on an EMI vinyl release); the as-yet-unrecorded
(all of these combine the best features of his early and later styles); plus several unusual choral works (
Mass of the Sea,
Missa Brevis, Stabat Mater—the first two also once available on disc), where he brilliantly applies his bravura instrumental techniques to vocal writing.
With these three concertos, however (written over the course of almost three decades—for violin in 1992, for cello in 2002, for viola in 2009), we encounter a very chastened and stylistically transformed Patterson. These works are conceived in a much less subversive context and function on a much more elevated and traditionally oriented plane. The lyricism that was often lurking beneath the jackanapes surface of his early incarnations has come to the fore. But to these ears there is some suspicion that, in the course of becoming more subdued and “serious,” Patterson has jettisoned a good deal of his appealingly prankish personality and has become—dare we say it?—just a little bit dull, if only intermittently so. There are numerous lovely aspects and passages in all three of these concertos, which call for an accompaniment of strings only, making for a smattering of aural sameness throughout the program. In this connection, one wishes that Dutton had avoided duplicating the dedicatee Rudolf Wallfisch’s perfectly adequate Nimbus recording of the Cello Concerto from a few years back and had instead perhaps substituted the recent Oboe Concerto or an earlier, studiously provocative Clarinet Concerto; there is also a rather neat Horn Concerto of recent vintage.
All of the three concertos here have a similar yet unorthodox form: Each opens with an extended and recitative-like cadenza section whose material gradually evolves into rather complex structures. Much of the central portions of all three remain rooted in a deeply ruminative frame of mind, although each work finally erupts in a rondo-like finale, offering much-needed relief from the prevailingly, even suffocatingly, static reflectiveness of what has gone before. The considerably longer finale of the Violin Concerto is enlivened by an otherwise uncharacteristic element of English folk song.
All three soloists offer totally committed readings (Sarah-Jane Bradley premiered the Viola Concerto), and George Vass elicits comparable contributions from his own Orchestra Nova. The sonics are up to Dutton’s usual high standards. Anyone already familiar with Patterson will want to catch up on what he has been up to in recent years, while newcomers will make a welcome new acquaintance, though they should keep in mind that he was not always this steady and staid.
FANFARE: Paul A. Snook
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin, Op. 72 by Paul Patterson
Tamás András (Violin)
Concerto for Viola, Op. 101 by Paul Patterson
Sarah-Jane Bradley (Viola)
Concerto for Cello, Op. 90 by Paul Patterson
Alice Neary (Cello)
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