DELIUS: Violin Con.; BRITTEN: Violin Con.; MILFORD: Darkly Thrush – Royal Scottish & Philharmonia Orch. – Dutton Epoch

FREDERICK DELIUS: Violin Concerto; BENJAMIN BRITTEN: Violin Concerto; ROBIN MILFORD: The Darkling Thrush – Royal Scottish Nat. Orch. /David Lloyd-Jones, cond./ Philharmonia Orch./ Nicholas Collon, cond./ Phillippe Graffin, violin – Dutton Epoch stereo-only SACD CDLX 7320,  68:46 (9/11/15) [Dist. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

Two familiar English works and a very worthwhile world premier.

English label Dutton Epoch has given us a fine stereo SACD with 3 notable works; Delius’ Violin Concerto, Britten’s Violin Concerto Op. 15, and the world premier recording of Robin Milford’s The Darkling Thrush. The two English violin concertos are well known in the repertoire, and the Milford piece is written for violin and orchestra. This all-English program has much to recommend it both musically and sonically.

The Delius concerto was written in 1916 while the composer was still in England. The score has been revised several times, and this performance reflects edits in the score by Delius champion Sir Thomas Beecham. It goes a bit further than the Beecham edit, however, and it includes revisions to the solo violin part by Albert Sammons. The Britten concerto was written as World War II unfolded. It’s highly emotional, and remains a popular, lyrical work.

Finally, the disc features Robin Milford’s The Darkling Thrush. It is similar in tone to Vaughan-Williams The Lark Ascending, and Millford’s title is taken from a Thomas Hardy poem about a thrush singing in mid-winter, an oddity that attracted Hardy’s attention. This is an engaging and beautiful piece, that I listened to and enjoyed several times during the course of this review.

All the performances are able and committed, with the Britten performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Nicholas Collon. The Delius and the Milford are performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra with David Lloyd-Jones conducting. Phillippe Graffin is solo violin on all the works.

The recording is that rare format, a stereo SACD. It’s a fine recording, and in my listening environment I did not miss the rear channels. The string sounds are realistic, the orchestral image spread between the two front speakers is sharp, and the microphone placement creates a very natural recording.

While the Millford premier is an attractive reason to get this disc, the performances of the Britten and Delius are first rate. Recommended!

—Mel Martin

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