Review of LNT133: Elizabeth Maconchy: Orchestral Music
Andrew Achenbach, Gramophone
The 23-year-old Elizabeth Maconchy created quite a splash with The Land, her four-movement suite for large orchestra which enjoyed a high-profile world premiere at the Proms on August 30, 1930, under Sir Henry Wood. Inspired by Vita Sackville-West’s 1926 narrative poem of the same name, it’s a strikingly confident and powerful creation, full of distinctive invention, imaginatively scored and much admired by (among others) Vaughan Williams, Holst and Tovey. It’s followed by the playful, crisply neo-classical Concertino for piano and chamber orchestra from 1928 (first heard in Prague a mere five months before The Land, with the composer Ervin Schulhoff as soloist) and Music for Wind and Brass, a characteristically absorbing nine-minute essay written in 1966 for Morley College’s annual Whitsun Festival in Thaxted, Essex. Last, but definitely not least, comes the Symphony for double string orchestra, an excitingly taut, four-movement masterwork from 1952-53, where the idiom is astringent yet often piercingly lyrical too. Resourcefully laid out and fuelled by the most bracing counterpoint and seemingly boundless rhythmic zest, it culminates in a deeply expressive Passacaglia that will haunt you for days, I promise.
Odaline de la Martinez’s performances with the BBC Scottish SO have endearing spirit and no mean discipline to commend them; the London-based Brazilian pianist Clélia Iruzun is on notably deft form in the Concertino.