Rare British Violin Concertos from Clare Howick

British Violin Concertos – by Patterson, Leighton & Jacob

Clare Howick (violin), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Grant Llewellyn (conductor)

Having thoroughly enjoyed Clare Howick’s recording of British works for violin and piano, with John Paul Ekins, I received this disc with much enthusiasm – and I was not disappointed.

The first work on the CD is the most recently written; Paul Patterson’s superb Violin Concerto No. 2 ‘Serenade’ that was written for Clare Howick in 2013, and this is its first recording. What is more surprising is that the other two works by Kenneth Leighton and Gordon Jacob, both written in the early 1950s, are also otherwise unavailable on disc.

For me, the Patterson concerto is the stand out work – it is musically absorbing, with gorgeous melodic creativity and rich, colourful orchestration. It is well structured, full of wonderful melodic invention and it holds one’s attention throughout. The work is in three unbroken movements: a lively Toccata (with a prominent role for harp), a wistful and extended Barcarolle and and finally, a sparkling Valse-Scherzo. Whilst the work has some technical challenges for the soloist, the overall mood of the piece is bright and high-spirited with a relaxed and cheerful interplay between the soloist and orchestra which is superbly realised in this performance by Clare Howick and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, under Grant Llewellyn. Howick is clearly committed to this piece and injects a great vitality into this lively performance which deserves to be widely heard. This is contemporary piece that should be required listening for anyone who is put off by the thought of modern compositions as it is so approachable.

This is followed by Leighton’s Concerto for Violin and Small Orchestra, Op. 12 which is in four movements. This concerto is somewhat darker in mood than the other two, but not in a negative sense. It has some terrifically exciting passages as well, as in the tense and edgy Scherzo, but the emotional heart of the work is the work’s closing Epilogo.

Unlike the previous works, Gordon Jacob’s Violin Concerto is written for a soloist and string orchestra. This work, like that of Leighton, is dedicated to the Canadian violinist, Frederick Grinke. This three movement work brings the disc to a close in both a lighter and more cheerful style than Leighton’s piece.

All three works are excellently played by both the soloist and the orchestra and are well worth one’s acquaintance. The performances, recorded in the City Halls, Glasgow have been well captured by the Naxos engineers and at bargain price this CD is unmissable. The record buying public owe a debt of gratitude to Clare Howick and Naxos for bringing these works to public attention. If only some of the majors like Warner would follow suit with more adventurous repertoire.However so long as we have the likes of Naxos, Hyperion and Chandos, to name three, exploring new avenues then we need not worry.

iClassical rating: 

Stream on Spotify or purchase from Presto Classical.