BBC Music Magazine

Prokofiev • Vaughan Williams • Walton

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Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 1; Walton: Viola Concerto; Vaughan

Williams: The Lark Ascending Isabelle van Keulen (violin, viola); NDR Radiophilh­armonie/

Andrew Manze, Keri-lynn Wilson, Andrew Litton

Challenge Classics CC 72793 62:49 mins Full marks for this wellconcei­ved programme, which brings together two works closely related but rarely coupled – Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto and Walton’s Viola Concerto, the latter following Prokofiev’s innovative formula of making the central movement a lively scherzo, followed by a finale whose opening theme is ultimately combined to poignant effect with the concerto’s very first theme. The Vaughan Williams – dreamy like the Prokofiev yet quintessen­tially English – proves a perfect companion to these works.

Curiously, this album compiles recordings from three different sessions – albeit, all recorded at the Hanover NDR with the Radio Philharmon­ic Orchestra – each with a different conductor. Andrew Manze is assigned the opening Prokofiev. Isabelle van Keulen plays this with a shiny, rather glassy (rather than glossy) tone – somewhat lacking the more velvety and warm qualities associated with the repertoire played by Paul Kochanski, for whom Prokofiev originally composed his concerto. Manze’s accompanim­ent is a touch diffident and precise rather than characterf­ul. The Concerto still ‘comes across’, but may have better suited to Andrew Litton, who instead conducts the Vaughan

Williams, which conversely could do with a little less of the American’s rhetorical and extrovert style (whereas Manze has already proven an idiomatic conductor of Vaughan Williams).

No reservatio­ns are needed for the Walton, whose introverte­d yet deep running emotion well suits van Keulen’s way with the husky-toned viola she plays. Conductor Kerilynn Wilson finds an ideal balance of restraint and (in the scherzo) extroversi­on, confirming it as one of the very greatest works in the 20th century concerto repertoire.

Daniel Jaffé

PERFORMANC­E ★★★★

RECORDING ★★★★

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