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The serious rival


PATRIC STANDFORD examines music
appealing to the listener with more time and patience

In the late 1940s, Alan Rawsthorne seriously rivalled Britten among critics and commentators anxious to put a name to the major voice in post-war British music. Yet within a decade most had agreed that Britten's far more simple melodic lines and clearly audible technical operations made huge popular gains over Rawsthorne's more austere musical language which appeals to the listener with more time and patience, the listener who is a musician whose well informed interest would follow through the musical discussion. Rawsthorne is more like a late Beethoven than a late Haydn; his work demands and rewards the greater effort of concentration. Not all its skill and craftsmanship are evident immediately, and yet the listener is aware that these qualities exist. It is not the kind of complexity all too often used to hide mediocrity and poverty - though we hear enough evidence now of naivety being used to disguise the same deficiencies! Rawsthorne is a fine artisan driven by a glow of inspired invention and the desire to communicate music of real worth. It is therefore appropriate that alongside their new recordings of his string orchestral music and the two Violin Concertos, Naxos should be issuing one of the two recent CDs of his chamber music - music through which he most carefully and intimately puts his craft to work, and pieces that need to be heard at leisure, several times. The Naxos recital consists of string chamber music. It covers a time span of about 30 years, from the Concertante for violin and piano of 1935, played by Nadia Myerscough [listen to its plaintive and magical opening - Naxos 8.554352 track 5, 00:59-01:38] and the Viola Sonata (Martin Outram) written a little later, to the Piano Trio (1962) and the Piano Quintet, one of Rawsthorne's last pieces (he died in 1971 aged 66) and commissioned by Cardiff University's Music Department. The Quintet's first performance was given by the University Ensemble, with which John McCabe was then pianist, and he no doubt revives fond musical memories in performing it again for this recording. At this late stage, Rawsthorne's harmony had become more tonally evasive, though behind this chromatic camouflage is a musician always with a singular focal point in his musical ear. [Listen - Naxos 8.554352 track 4, 00:25-01:16.] Between these pieces, chronologically, is the Cello Sonata, written in 1950 and played by Peter Adams, sensitively accompanied (as are the other solo pieces) by Yoshiko Endo.

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Copyright © 20 February 2000 Patric Standford, Wakefield, UK


Alan Rawsthorne Piano Quintet - Piano Trio - Cello Sonata - Concertante - Viola Sonata. Copyright (c) 1999 HNH International Ltd.



Alan Rawsthorne / The Fibonacci Sequence. Copyright (c) 1999 ASV Ltd.





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