The Strad Issue: January 2012
Description: An attractive disc of concertante works for violin and viola
Musicians: Lorraine McAslan (violin) Sarah-Jane Bradley (viola) Royal Scottish National Orchestra/John Gibbons
Composer: A. Benjamin

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 a most convincing performance by Lorraine McAslan, a much-admired 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 (just 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.