The Strad Issue: January 2009
Musicians: Pieter Schoeman (violin) Alexander Zemtsov (viola) Sally Matthews (soprano) London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski
Composer: Britten

Britten’s Double Concerto was written in 1932, immediately before his acknowledged op.1, the Sinfonietta, but remained unheard until as recently as 1997. Pieter Schoeman and Alexander Zemtsov, leader and principal violist of the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO), bring the rapport of their regular orchestral collaboration to bear in a lithe and nuanced performance of the work, and get the balance between tonal individuality and blend just right. They capture the freshness of the young composer’s inspiration, especially the pastoral mood of the central Rhapsody, and revel in the interplay between the two solo parts in the finale.

Under Vladimir Jurowski’s perceptive direction, the LPO strings give a robustly characterful account of the Frank Bridge Variations and add plenty of atmosphere to Sally Matthews’s visceral performance of the song cycle Les illuminations.

The live concert recordings are ideally balanced, though the sound is warmest and least troubled by audience noise in the concerto.

Matthew Rye