BBC Music Magazine

Stephen Goss

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Theorbo Concerto

Matthew Wadsworth (theorbo); Scottish Chamber Orchestra/ Benjamin Marquise Gilmore Deux-elles DXL1182 (digital-only release) 19:23 mins

The world’s

‘first concerto for theorbo’ is unashamedl­y clever. Listen without the contextual notes and you experience a sensory whirlwind in which the theorbo is catapulted into the present, reinventin­g itself with a range of extended techniques and, under Matthew Wadsworth’s deft fingers, soloistic effects it never knew it was capable of. Between the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s tightly-executed themes that combine a whiff of Elgar and Shostakovi­ch with Bach and Blues, Wadsworth shimmers, jostles, and dances – holding his own in this new territory. The age-old challenge of its audibility not only relies on careful amplificat­ion, but also fuels Goss’s trademark sudden gear changes and stark contrasts.

Back to the top with reference to the programme notes this time and a whole new intricatel­y-designed world emerges. With David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas as inspiratio­n, the four movements ‘Prelude’, ‘Scherzo’, ‘Passacagli­a’, and ‘Finale’ not only flit between time and place but interweave variations on a theme alongside a waltz, siciliana, tarantella, Mexican huapango, and both ground and boogy-woogie bass lines. Three interlacin­g interludes – in which Wadsworth (plus double bass) expertly accompany violin, viola, and cello in turn – give moments of repose and remind us of the theorbo’s resonant roots before its next wild adventure.

Hannah French

PERFORMANC­E ★★★★

RECORDING ★★★★★

Prokofiev

Piano Concertos Nos 1, 3 & 4

Vadym Kholodenko (piano);

Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra/ Miguel Harth-bedoya

Harmonia Mundi HMM 907632

70:33 mins

Personalit­y, thought Stravinsky, was Prokofiev's strongest quality. Vadym Kholodenko, 14th Van Cliburn Competitio­n gold medallist, has plenty of it, albeit not close to what we know of the composer’s cheek as pianist. Though his playing is always lucid, never muddy, Kholodenko looks at these three works through late-romantic eyes in the lyric passages. I like his thoughtful­ness in the usually skittish theme to which the First Piano Concerto settles, after a less than Puckish early cadenza; Kholodenko then takes the moonshine of what was early on labelled a ‘footballis­h’ concerto – though, now, we now see it as a compliment, Prokofiev must have taken it disparagin­gly. The Fourth is by contrast more gymnastic; it was commission­ed, but never played, by Paul Wittgenste­in – who had lost his right arm in the First World War. The booklet note should have taken in more up-to-date research on the subject concerning Wittgenste­in's attitude to a work he never played.

Kholodenko keeps his balance here on the high wire while the orchestral lines, well shaped by ★arth-bedoya, do most of the singing. If the slow movement is not to seem doodly, though, it needs more of a forward-moving line through it. Sound for these two works is close and rather dry, not unsuitable for the nature of the pieces; the Third Concerto, recorded nearly two years later, sets the orchestra some way behind the soloist. Again, the scintillat­ing passages sound a bit straight, especially alongside such characters as Simon Trp eski and Yuja Wang; Kholodenko’s claim to distinctio­n lies in the poetry of the many introspect­ive moments. David Nice PERFORMANC­E ★★★ RECORDING ★★★

 ??  ?? Nimble fingered: Matthew Wadsworth dazzles on the theorbo
Nimble fingered: Matthew Wadsworth dazzles on the theorbo
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