Vaughan Williams: Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra; The Lark Ascending; Elgar: Introduction and Allegro, Op 47; Serenade for Strings in E minor, Op 20

Reviewed on Mon 10 Nov, 2014

Recordings of Vaughan Williams's taut and crisply neo-Classical Violin Concerto (originally entitled Concerto Accademico and composed in 1924-5 for the Hungarian virtuoso Jelly d'Aranyi) have never been thick on the ground, so Tamsin Waley-Cohen's stylish new account of it with David Curtis and his finely disciplined Orchestra of the Swan is certainly welcome (the songful slow movement enjoys especially eloquent treatment). They also give a shapely and eminently touching reading of The Lark Ascending, though Tasmin Little's superlative partnership with Sir Andrew Davis and the BBC Philharmonic for Chandos (reviewed by yours truly on 20 December 2013) has an instinctive flow, rapt poetry and tingling atmosphere that really are hard to beat. As for the Elgar items, the adorable Serenade for Strings comes up with agreeable freshness, but there is greater depth of feeling in the central Larghetto than Curtis locates (try and track down Norman Del Mar's gloriously intuitive 1968 recording with the Bournemouth SO on EMI/Warner). Likewise, the Introduction and Allegro, for all the clean-limbed athleticism on show, would have benefited from greater charisma and temperament – qualities that Sir John Barbirolli for one always brought to this toweringly original masterpiece. No matter, this remains a likeable issue.
–Andrew Achenbach