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Wright: Concerto For Violin & Orchestra 'and Then There Was Silence ...'; Momentum: Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 5

Vaughan Williams / Bournemouth Sym Orchs / Yates
Release Date: 05/08/2012 
Label:  Dutton Laboratories/Vocalion   Catalog #: 7286   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Christopher WrightRalph Vaughan Williams
Performer:  Fenella Humphreys
Conductor:  Martin Yates
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 18 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

C. WRIGHT Momentum. 1 Violin Concerto. 1,2 VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Symphony No. 5 3 Martin Yates, cond; 2 Fenella Humphreys (vn); 2 Christopher Watson (ten); 1,2 Royal Scottish Nat O. 3 Bournemouth SO Read more DUTTON CLDX 7286 (78:29)

Christopher Wright (b. 1954) is not to be confused with the better known Geoffrey Wright (b. 1912), even if listings for the two in the Fanfare Archive are (as of the writing of these lines) intermingled with those of at least three other composers with the same surname (Denis, Maurice, and Searle). Christopher—a pupil of Richard Arnell who followed a vocation as a schoolteacher for 16 years before turning to full-time composition in 1993—has enjoyed a previous release of his music by Dutton, a disc of varied orchestral works heralded by Paul A. Snook in 33:6, and a 2006 release on the Merlin Classics label of several pieces of chamber music. Both attracted favorable reviews.

The composer himself writes of his Momentum overture that it “has no other programme than to give enjoyment to both listener and performer,” and in that it succeeds, if modestly. Constructed in the tried and true A-B-A’ ternary form, it reminds me of much of the tonal music currently being written for concert band, and indeed could be easily adapted for such an ensemble instead. Its edgy nervousness, neoclassical rather than neoromantic and spiced with a jazz idiom, brings to mind some of the works of Edward Gregson.

The Violin Concerto, composed in 2010, is a memorial to the composer’s wife, Ruth, who died of cancer in 2009, and is subtitled “And then there was silence....” It is so nice to have a violin concerto that is unabashedly melodious, instead of one trying to prove its modernist credentials to academic mandarins of musicology and composition. Wright simply concentrates here on writing good music that is well constructed, expressive, and communicative rather than “original,” and succeeds unreservedly in that. Cast in three movements, it unconventionally inverts the usual tempo pattern for a three-movement work to offer a slow-fast-slow sequence of Larghetto-Allegro-Andante . Still more unconventionally, in the last movement the violinist is joined by a tenor soloist, who sings the first stanza of the poem Echo by Christina Rossetti (1830–94). A slightly melancholic and wistful first movement has only one passage that ever so briefly rises above a mezzo forte . The succeeding Allegro sounds decidedly like Vaughan Williams—albeit the composer of the dissonant Fourth Symphony as well as the more lyrical pastoral works—with just a pinch of Shostakovich, as a vigorous opening gives way to a pastoral interlude. The third movement, a lament, returns to the subdued atmosphere of the first. Fenella Humphreys is a top-notch violin soloist, producing a pure, sweet tone of piercing beauty. The high-lying tenor part consists mostly of soft, sustained pitches; Christopher Watson renders it very well, though the voice is not a suave one. Conductor Martin Yates and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra present a winning rendition.

The concerto makes a very apt pairing to the Vaughan Williams symphony in mood. Another reason for this coupling is the opportunity to make the first recording of a new critical edition of the symphony’s score, which corrects numerous errors in the 1946 Oxford University Press edition resulting from the copyist’s efforts to decipher the composer’s almost illegible handwriting. Most of the changes are subtle ones in phrasing and articulation; among the more important corrections is the entrance of the timpani one bar earlier at one point in the third movement, though most conductors have long known of the problem and already made that alteration in their own scores. The performance here is solid, and the Bournemouth Orchestra plays well enough, but interpretively it is too low key and lacking in profile—there is a shortage of real bite in the Scherzo, or of aching plaintiveness in the Romanza—when compared to major interpreters such as Adrian Boult. The recorded sound is, as always with Dutton, excellent. Recommended, then, for acquisition of Wright’s very worthwhile concerto.

FANFARE: James A. Altena
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Works on This Recording

Momentum, for orchestra by Christopher Wright
Conductor:  Martin Yates
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2008 
Date of Recording: 08/02/2011 
Venue:  Glasgow Royal Concert Hall 
Length: 7 Minutes 18 Secs. 
Violin Concerto ("And then there was silence") by Christopher Wright
Performer:  Fenella Humphreys (Violin)
Conductor:  Martin Yates
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2010 
Date of Recording: 08/02/2011 
Venue:  Glasgow Royal Concert Hall 
Length: 32 Minutes 10 Secs. 
Symphony no 5 in D major by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  Martin Yates
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938-1943; England 
Date of Recording: 08/02/2011 
Venue:  Glasgow Royal Concert Hall 
Length: 38 Minutes 15 Secs. 

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