La Scena Musicale

Monday, July 6, 2009

Britten: Double Concerto for Violin and Viola/Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge/Les Illuminations

Sally Matthews, soprano; Pieter Schoeman, violin; Alexander Zemtsov, viola
London Philharmonic/Vladimir Jurowski
LPO 0037 (70 min 37 s)
**** $$$$
It is good to see that the LPO is at least a little bit adventurous in its repertoire choices on its new house label. They already have a live Britten War Requiem conducted by Masur (LPO – 0010) and now this excellent Britten collection under its current principal conductor. The Double Concerto dates from 1932, when Britten was only nineteen. But he was a precocious composer and this piece is consistently engrossing. He never got beyond writing the piece in short score but in 1997 his assistant Colin Matthews very effectively brought it to its present form. It had its first recording the following year with Gidon Kremer, Yuri Bashmet and conductor Kent Nagano (Erato 25502). The new recording is first-rate.
Sally Matthews sings with great artistry in Les Illuminations, but above mezzo-forte her wide vibrato becomes distinctly unpleasant. Here and in the Frank Bridge Variations – premiered at the 1937 Salzburg Festival by the Boyd Neel Orchestra – the strings of the LPO play with virtuosity and a wide range of colours.

- Paul E. Robinson

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