A powerful collection of Britten’s concertante works for violin and viola
You don’t have to know that Britten’s Violin Concerto was written as war broke out in 1939 to sense that a global tragedy overshadows the music. Anthony Marwood, in one of the most gripping accounts of recent times, makes this aspect his own, by careful pacing, agile bow-work and careful tonal manipulation. In the last case, he is not afraid to dig the bow in far enough to gouge the sound from the string if the emotion demands it – the humour earlier in the work has rarely sounded more sardonic and the final Passacaglia must be one of the most harrowing on disc.
The Double Concerto for violin and viola, a student work from 1932 premiered as recently as 1997, is generally much perkier, though it also ends in elegy. Marwood and Lawrence Power are ideally matched, as indeed they need to be when so much of the solo writing is in octaves, 3rds and 6ths, and they make a convincing case for the concerto becoming a more regular alternative to the Mozart Sinfonia concertante in concert programming. Power concludes this well-recorded disc – in which Ilan Volkov and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra provide bitingly visceral support throughout – with a supple and plangent account of Lachrymae.