Monday, 18 June 2018

Simone Lamsma in Britten's Violin Concerto

I was very pleased indeed to be able to plug into a performance by Simone Lamsma of Benjamin Britten's violin concerto (11th June 2018 in the Concertgebouw, with the Netherlands Philharmonic under Edward Gardner). The performance is passionate and committed; the off-air sound exemplary; the hall audience extremely well-behaved. Lamsma has for a long time been identified with this concerto, and her commitment is contagious. Interestingly, Lamsma — like Theo Olof in his pioneering 1948 recording — plays the 1939 original version of the work. Perhaps it's a Dutch thing; pretty well everyone else, including Britten in his recording, plays the revised version. Off-hand, I can't tell the difference, from memory.

Britten's violin concerto has only recently come into its own. Writing an intensely melodic concerto in D minor was not something calculated to enthuse the young critics of the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s, geared up as they were to extol the latest fashion of the avant-garde (a bit like today's critics slobbering over “gut strings” and “original instruments”.) Ah, fashion. Nearly 80 years on, Britten's concerto is moving and impressive; well written for the violin and for the orchestra. When I was young, BBC commentators used to introduce the works of Shostakovich, Britten, Khachaturian, and others, slightly apologetically. “I know it's not really music of our times, but it has its place”. Well, Messrs Shostakovich, Britten and Khachaturian are having the last laugh. I have never been a fan of Benjamin Britten's music, but I do have a soft spot for his violin concerto as do, it appears, many modern violinists. The link to the Lamsma performance is available for some time at:

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