Violin Concerto (1931)*
i. Rhapsody (Allegro giusto – Largamente ed appassionato – cadenza – Allegro con brio) –
ii. Intermezzo (Andante piacevole) –
iii. Rondo (Allegro vivace (ma non troppo presto))
Romantic Fantasy for Violin, Viola & Orchestra (1936)
i. Nocturne (Lento – cadenza) –
ii. Scherzino (Presto leggiero e fantastico) – Trio (Meno presto – cadenza) – Allegro non troppo –
iii. Sonata-Finale (Allegro, tempo giusto) – Come il notturno – Come il scherzino
Elegy, Waltz and Toccata [Viola Concerto] for Viola & Orchestra (1943)**
i. Elegy (Adagio e mesto – Molto giusto – Appassionato e largamente)
ii. Waltz (Quasi improvisatore – Vivace – Tempo del adagio)
iii. Toccata (Allegro ma non troppo)
Lorraine McAslan (violin)
Sarah-Jane Bradley (viola)
Royal Scottish NationalOrchestra
John Gibbons (conductor)
Recorded: RSNO Centre, Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, 26-27 May 2011
*World premiere recording
**World premiere recording in this version
Why has no one previously thought to release Arthur Benjamin’s three string concertos together on one CD? Maybe this has to do with the difficulty of the music. Now Dutton Epoch’s solo team of violinist Lorraine McAslan and violist Sarah-Jane Bradley, playing with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, have produced remarkably involving performances. Here we have the almost unknown Benjamin Violin Concerto and Viola Concerto, the soloists uniting for the more familiar Romantic Fantasy for violin, viola and orchestra.
Dedicated to Walton, the Violin Concerto is notable for its wealth of invention, for the English feel of the opening movement (owing to its pentatonic colouration) and for the lilting siciliana charm of the middle movement. Listeners will particularly engage with the music’s energy, thrillingly articulated by soloist Lorraine McAslan’s flashing violin playing, especially in the driven Rondo finale.
McAslan is joined by Sarah-Jane Bradley in the Romantic Fantasy for Violin, Viola and Orchestra. This is a delightful score of ever-shifting lyricism, of exchange and interplay between the soloist and with the orchestra. Sarah-Jane Bradley is soloist in the wartime Viola Concerto, sometimes known as ‘Elegy, Waltz and Toccata’, the composer’s own orchestration of his Viola Sonata. Reflecting the times, Benjamin essays a score of sombre tone but of no less eloquence, expressively performed by Sarah-Jane Bradley.
“These performances have fine dash and commitment about them ... Do lend an ear to this most enterprising issue.”
Andrew Achenbach, Gramophone, March 2012
"The immense popularity of Arthur Benjamin's Jamaican Rumba has proved a bar to establishing its composer's credentials as a serious figure, though paradoxically the missing ingredient in his Walton inspired Violin Concerto of 1932 is a catchy melodic idea. An intense score of three linked movements, it here receives an extremely convincing performance by Lorraine McAslan, a muchadmired champion of British music who displays an easy technical command. making light of the music's many demands. The Romantic Fantasy for violin, viola and orchestra came four years later in 1936, and is a more readily engaging score. In the outer movements, McAslan's silvery tone contrasts with the fruity quality of Sarah-Jane Bradley's viola Gust as the work requires), yet the two neatly blend in the playful central scherzino. That viola weight is vital for the Elegy, Waltz and Toccata, a work with the alternative title of Viola Concerto, where the soloist has to find the strength to dominate a busy orchestra in the finale. With a charming central waltz, it is a readily attractive piece. with the viola often weaving its own independent line around the orchestra. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra. with John Gibbons conducting. offers assured support in music that must be new to the players. and the engineers keep the soloists well forward. "
David Denton, The Strad magazine, March 2012