Wednesday, December 16, 2015

On 'British Violin Concertos' Tasmin Little has recognized the musical appeal of the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Violin Concerto, and has interpreted it masterfully

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) is profiled at which features a comprehensive Works List and a Bibliography by Dr. Dominique-Rene de Lerma,

Chandos CHAN 10879 (2015)

On this recording, Chandos 10879 (2015), violinist Tasmin Little and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra perform the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 80 (1912) of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor; the Suite for Violin and Orchestra (c. 1888-91) of Frederick Delius; and the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1928) of Haydn Wood.  Yuri Torchinsky is leader, and Sir Andrew Davis conducts.  The liner notes are copyrighted 2015 by Anthony Burton.

Coleridge-Taylor toured the U.S. three times.  The liner notes tells us "He was taken up by the Norfolk Festival in Connecticut, which regularly played host to some of the world's leading composers.  During his visit to the 1910 Festival, he was invited to write a Violin Concerto for the progressive virtuoso Maud Powell; the Festival's director, Carl Stoeckel, suggested that it should be based on African-American melodies."  After the composer had sent his first composition to the U.S., he asked that it be destroyed in favor of a new work he had written.
Anthony Burton writes: "The replacement work, gladly accepted, was given its first performance by Maud Powell at the Norfolk Festival in June 1912..."

The notes continue: "The Concerto begins with a movement (in G minor) on an ambitious scale, which is free and wide-ranging in its formal and tonal scheme. The opening theme, which Coleridge-Taylor salvaged from his first attempt at the work, was clearly designed for its original context, as its modal orientation emulates the music of Dvorak's American period, with its African-American influences.  As first stated by the orchestra, the theme has an unusual construction of alternating four-bar and three-bar phrases; but this is loosened as soon as the soloist takes up the melody."

The Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra made the world premiere recording of the Coleridge-Taylor Violin Concerto in 2004 on the Avie label.  Jessica Duchen writes in the liner notes: "The solemn and lyrical character of the sonata-form first movement seems to recall Dvorak at times, Grieg at others and, in the rich use of the brass section, Elgar, whom Coleridge-Taylor revered.  Some of its melodic contours occasionally suggest the influence of [N]egro spiritual themes."

We find all three movements of the composition to be uncommonly cheerful for a violin concerto.  That is an important factor in the appeal this work and this entire recording hold for us.  The composers whose influence is evident in the opening movement of the Coleridge-Taylor Violin Concerto are all well represented in our music collection.  We are delighted that Tasmin Little has recognized the musical appeal of the concerto dedicated to Maud Powell, and has interpreted it so masterfully.                                                                                              

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