Notes and Editorial Reviews
Here is an album whose contents seem odd as it couples the violin concerto of a (still) Russian composer to the viola concerto of an English one. Instead, the coupling is very clever since Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto, whose premiere was in 1923 (while the composer was still living in France, a few years before his return to Soviet Union) served as a much-admired model to Walton’s Viola Concerto, whose first performance was played by Paul Hindemith in 1929. The similarities between the two works go beyond the three-movement structure slow-quick-slow and concern themes, accompaniments and the rondo form of the virtuoso central Scherzo. The smart idea of such unusual coupling came to one of the few great living violinists who can really play the viola with equal skill: Isabelle van Keulen. This glorious album is crowned by the orchestrated version of Vaughan Williams’ masterpiece The Lark Ascending. One of German radio’s best orchestras, the NDR Radiophilharmonie is conducted by Andrew Manze, Keri-Lynn Wilson, and Andrew Litton.
Full marks for this well-conceived program, which brings together two works closely related but rarely coupled. Van Keulen plays the Prokofiev with a shiny, rather glassy (rather than glossy) tone. No reservations are needed for the Walton, whose introverted yet deep running emotion well suits van Keulen’s way with the husky-toned viola she plays. Conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson finds an ideal balance of restraint and (in the scherzo) extroversion.
– BBC Music Magazine