Eleanor Alberga Violin Concertos – collaborative classics

Eleanor Alberga and her husband Thomas Bowes make quite a team. As the piano/violin duo Double Exposure they toured and performed together. And they frequently performed Alberga’s music. The blend of personal and artistic intimacy between the two inspired both.

Case in point, the two violin concertos featured on this release. In 2001 Alberga chose to concentrate on composing rather than performing. One of her first compositions as a full-time composer was her Violin Concerto No. 1. The work was written for her husband and is tailor-made for his abilities. One of Alberga’s strengths is her lyricism, as Bowes understands so well.

Joseph Swensen conducts this performance. He also conducted the premiere with Bowes as soloist. Sometimes new music can sound a bit lifeless, as the performers haven’t absorbed the score.

Not so here. Bowes and Swensen knew this work from its creation (and probably a bit before). The result is a performance that’s assured, focused, and vibrant.

Alberga’s second violin concerto is more of a program piece. This 2020 concerto was inspired by the myth of Narcissus. In the story, Narcissus sees a reflection of himself in a pond and is instantly entranced. He remains transfixed, eventually fading into dust.

Alberga doesn’t give us a literal telling. Rather, she gives us the spirit of the myth. Much of the score is self-referential, presenting passages reworked and reimagined.

At the end, the violin softly fades away to silence, mimicking the fate of Narcissus. Once again Bowes brings his wife’s music to life. There are passages of exceptional beauty in the single-movement concerto. And Bowes delivers with each.

Also on this release is “The Soul’s Expression” for baritone and string orchestra. This work also exists in a version for voice and piano. The string orchestra version creates moods and textures different from the piano version.

Morgan Pearse sings with a warm, full tone. The interplay between voice and strings is masterfully done. And his delivery enhances the emotional content of George Eliot’s poetry.

This is Lyrita’s third release of Alberga’s music. I hope there is more to come!

Eleanor Alberga: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 2
The Soul’s Expression for baritone and string orchestra
Thomas Bowes, violin; Morgan Pearse, baritone
BBC National Orchestra of Wales; Joseph Swensen, conductor
Lyrita SRCD.405

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