Rózsa/Bartók: Viola Concertos, Lawrence Power, Andrew Litton (conductor) (Hyperion)
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra Rózsa/Bartók: Viola Concertos Lawrence Power, Andrew Litton (conductor) (Hyperion) Pity the poor viola, for it rarely achieves the glamorous heights of its smaller, prettier sister the violin. But its under-performed repertoire includes some excellent concertos, such as these two 20th-century works by the Hungarian composers Miklov Rózsa and Béla Bartók. Performed with exquisite agility by the British violist Lawrence Power, the instrument's expressive range is fully explored here. Bartók's concerto, completed after his death by Tibor Serly, who also composed the Rhapsody for Violin & Orchestra that concludes the CD, is as one would expect: an enjoyably prickly mix of 20th-century dissonance and traditional peasant-like folk with some melancholy moments. The great revelation here, though, is Rózsa's dark, mellifluous work, the viola's shimmering pentatonic meanderings underpinned by a bright, energetic orchestra. This work in particular is highly reminiscent of the music from the splendid Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), a score that in fact reused parts of the composer's Violin Concerto. Like the violin concerto, this viola concerto has a cinematic pace, an ebb and flow, that is riveting and stands up to repeated playing.