Rawsthorne: Cello Concerto, Etc / Baillie, Rancourt, Et Al
Once again Naxos pulls a rabbit out of its hat with this gorgeous release of Alan Rawsthorne's music (with two world premieres yet). Rawsthorne (1905-71) was one of a middle generation of 20th century British Romanticists whose music had a somewhat rough edge, veering toward elements of atonality without really crossing the line (this is particularly true of his symphonies). One of Rawsthorne's best works, easily ranking with his symphonies, is the Symphonic Studies (1939) performed here. With its shifting moods and bright orchestral colors, this work more closely resembles a concerto for orchestra and is full of delicious surprises. It alone is worth the price of admission.
The world premieres here are the two concertos, one for oboe from 1947, the other a 1966 cello concerto. Both are mainstream Romantic works but with a bit more emotional content than found in the Symphonic Studies. The Oboe Concerto might draw comparisons with the one by Vaughan Williams, but while it has the same depth of emotion, it also has fewer melancholic elements. The soloist is Stéphane Rancourt, whose oboe provides a warm, sympathetic reading of the material without being assertive or showy. The Cello Concerto is a more dour work and it will remind the informed listener of Arnold Bax's cello concerto--but again, without that composer's brooding temperament. However, every performance element here is in place and the sound quality is superior. If you're new to Rawsthorne, there is no better introduction to his music than the Symphonic Studies. This is a real find.
--Paul Cook, ClassicsToday.com
Catalog Number: 8554763
Composer: Alan Rawsthorne
Conductor: David Lloyd-Jones
Orchestra/Ensemble: Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Performer: Alexander Baillie, Stephane Rancourt