Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Concerto for String Orchestra (1949) [11.11]
Concerto Grosso (1958) [21.26]
Violin Concerto (1960) [24.36]
Haunted Hills (1950) [15.18]
Queensland SO/Patrick Thomas (1)
Sybil Copeland (violin), John Glickman (viola), Max Cooke (harpsichord) Melbourne SO/John Hopkins (2) Leonard Dommett (violin/Melbourne SO/Patrick Thomas (3)
Melbourne SO/John Hopkins (4)
rec ABC, Australia, Dec 1972 - Mar 1973
 ABC CLASSICS - ELOQUENCE 465 734-2 [73.10]

Margaret Sutherland is a name likely to be known to those who already know their Bax in detail. She came to England from her native Australia in the 1920s and took private tuition from Bax. The title of her tone poem, Haunted Hills naturally suggests parallels with Bax's Irish works (e.g. In The Faery Hills). However her music defies any speculation that her music will ape that of Bax.

Concerto for Strings is a gracious and concise expression rippling with the dynamism of the Bliss Music for Strings. Sutherland is to the point, fresh in invention and athletic in her handling of the strings. The Wiren Serenade, Waxman Sinfonietta and the Rozsa Concerto for Strings are works akin in their eloquence and movement. The short finale has a Hungarian accent.

With a title like that and the distinctive instrumentation it is no surprise that the Concerto Grosso is a work of neo-classical tendencies. There is a busy Allegro, a phlegmatic Adagio and a troubled and impatient Allegro con brio. An abrasive Bartokian element surfaces in the finale.

The Violin Concerto takes the flavour (and it is only a flavour) of atonality one small step further. The work is best thought of as a running-mate for Lennox Berkeley's violin concerto, either of the Rawsthornes (the first rather than the second), the Fricker and the Frankel concerto. At times we can imagine we are hearing a lost concerto by Miklos Rozsa - that Zingaresca inclination again - notably in the first movement. The grotesque strut and jaunty march of the finale places this very close to the first Rawsthorne Concerto and to the reflective aspects of the William Schuman Concerto.

Haunted Hills with its harp arpeggio-swept opening pages mingling with the emotionally disturbed surges of Vaughan Williams' Ninth Symphony takes us back to the Concerto for String Orchestra. This is no Celtic pastel sketch. The world created by Sutherland is, overall, unlike Bax's though his voice is unmistakable at 4.19 in one of those passion-exhausted marches of which Bax was a master magician. This is a bejewelled score alive with a crowd of detail lovingly rendered by orchestra and engineer. The swooping pages of the opening and closing can be likened to the great waves of sound that rend Louis Aubert's Tombeau de Chateaubriand - itself a marine impression rivalling Bax's Tintagel.

The sleeve notes are not specific to the works so we are given no idea of their dates or premiere details.

The technical side is very acceptable though I noticed that a channel dropped out (or suffered a drastic reduction in level) briefly at 9.24 in Haunted Hills.

All credit to ABC for making this music available.

Rob Barnett

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