The Strad Issue: January 2012
Description: Aerial acrobatics dominate a recent concerto for violin
Musicians: Keisuke Okazaki* (violin) Jonathan Powell†  (piano) Esbjerg Ensemble/Christopher Austin
Composer: Hayes

Young British composer Morgan Hayes has a distinctive voice that combines rhythmic complexity with harmonic approachability. It has to be said, though, that the piano pieces on this disc show it off more than the three string works. Hayes’s Violin Concerto (2006) is a seductive work, full of rapturous writing and striking sonorities, often fragile and evanescent from both soloist and ensemble. It depicts the violinist’s attempts to take flight and soar above the ensemble, often thwarted by percussive tuttis that leave the violin struggling to be heard.

Soloist Keisuke Okazaki has a thin but superbly focused sound, just right for the role he assumes in this piece, and his performance, although never overdramatic, is full of passion. When he finally breaks free in a sudden explosion of energy and virtuosity near the end of the work, it’s a joy to hear. He gives his all, too, in the two contrasting Beckett-inspired pieces for solo violin, Lucky’s Speech (2006) and Lucky’s Dream (2008), with considered performances that never lack spontaneity. Recorded sound is very resonant for the two solo pieces, yet unflatteringly dead for the concerto.

David Kettle