Second String

The virtuosic Lawrence Power raises the profile of the violin’s second-class cousin.

Composer: Walton
Repertoire: Viola Concerto Rubbra Viola Concerto; Meditations on a Byzantine Hymn
Artists: Lawrence Power (viola), BBC Scottish SO/Ilan Volkov
Rating: 5/5

Genre: Orchestral
Label: Hyperion CDA 67587

The Viola Concerto (1928-29) was the first work to fully proclaim Walton’s genius. This is music that is somehow virtuosic but not showy, bold and exuberant in places yet profoundly intimate, tinged with a nostalgic reflectiveness yet never merely self-indulgent. Lawrence Power magically combines the soulful intensity of Lionel Tertis with the quicksilver agility of that other British viola genius, William Primrose.

In Power’s skilled hands the viola is transformed from the lumbering second-class citizen of legend into a sleek, fine-tuned, noble instrument of infinite grace and expressive subtlety. Walton is one of the few composers to have really understood the viola’s unique inner voice and Power traces the music’s emotional contours with unerring accuracy.
By comparison, Rubbra’s creative voice may at first appear less overtly distinctive, yet Power discovers in his Viola Concerto (1952) a brooding power and inexorable grip that intensifies with repeated hearings. The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under its gifted chief conductor, Ilan Volkov, also sounds utterly transported, illuminating Walton’s and Rubbra’s elusive musical idioms with playing of considerable accomplishment. The solo viola Meditations, here receiving their premiere recording, are no less captivating and Power plays them like a lost masterwork. 

An outstanding release.