Bowen & Forsyth: Viola Concertos
Lawrence Power is fast emerging as the foremost viola player of a new generation, the lyrical drama and versatility of his performances winning invitations to perform as soloist with top orchestras worldwide and with such chamber groups as The Nash Ensemble and the Leopold String Trio.
This significant new recording presents two viola concertos whose relative obscurity belies their cultural significance and musical worth.
York Bowen was born in London in 1884 and quickly emerged from his whisky-distilling family background to be recognized as a star in the musical firmament of the day. Already a competent composer and experienced concert pianist in his teens, his cause was supported by Henry Wood and Hans Richter. The viola concerto was first performed by Lionel Tertis in 1908 at The Queen’s Hall and is a substantial work. Moments of extreme virtuosity for the soloist (Tertis would doubtless have insisted) are supported by a full orchestral texture throughout in a work of astonishing maturity for a composer so young.
Also born in London, though some two decades earlier, Cecil Forsyth had an equally impressive early career before a move to America and into the world of music publishing allowed his compositions to fall out of the repertory. The viola concerto was first performed at the 1903 Proms by Émile Férir and from its very opening is marked out by an extraordinary lyricism of singing lines in the solo part. Powerful melodies are constantly thrown between viola and orchestra, and the whole gives an impression of tireless good humour. Inexplicably, the existence of the work was totally ignored by Tertis who omits any reference to it from his catalogue of English viola concertos, this despite the fact that he is known to have played in the orchestra at the premiere. Though not as soloist …