Reviewed from digital files

Both works, from the late-1930s, each lasting just short of half-an-hour, are played from Critical Editions, the Concerto for Violin & Viola recorded for the first time. The perhaps-more-familiar Violin Concerto (Nikos Skalkottas writing for his own instrument) is a sinewy piece, Schoenberg’s inescapable influence paying rich dividends in terms of complex counterpoint and rhythms, as well as intense expression that moves forward urgently in the outer movements (the Finale ends curtly though) with much compelling incident, and with many demands placed upon soloist and orchestra; the middle movement, while restless, offers some emotional respite while still hooking the listener and indeed suggesting vistas beyond the horizon. George Zacharias may not have the most refulgent of tones but he plays with command and conviction, athletically striding the many notes, and the London Philharmonic is confidently in the picture under Martyn Brabbins’s exacting conducting.

The Violin & Viola Concerto does without orchestral strings save for basses and is scored colourfully for woodwinds (including three saxophones), brass (six horns required) and percussion, and is maybe a ‘lighter’ composition, quite harmonious, dryly witty, Baroque elements rubbing shoulders with occasional allusions to Kurt Weill, the middle movement intertwining the three layers of protagonists engagingly and confidingly, entrancing in fact, the Finale being the most strenuous if exhilarated by the accelerating closing measures. Alexandros Koustas is every bit as committed as Zacharias and their distinctive timbres are complementary. The required members of the LPO are once again exemplary in response to Brabbins’s clear-sighted guidance of music made lucid.

The recording (heard from digital files, not a medium I would pursue too often, if only because a disc is tactile, but my curiosity about this music needed satisfying) proves to be a model of immediacy, clarity and good balance (Henry Wood Hall, 2020, and, Violin Concerto, 2022) from somewhere within my computer. BIS-2554 [SACD].