Review of LNT133: Elizabeth Maconchy: Orchestral Music
Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk
Elizabeth Maconchy (1907-1944) was a pupil of Vaughan Williams in the 1920s; and her composing career continued until the late 1980s. It’s a real surprise to discover how uncompromising and un-English the music on this disc sounds. This bracing, confrontational style does, however, co-exist with a certain dourness, and there are places when you wish that Maconchy’s music would loosen up and brighten up a little, the relentless gritty counterpoint a little like eating large bowls of dry muesli. Still, taken in smallish doses, there’s plenty to fascinate on this well-produced and annotated disc. Maconchy’s early four-movement suite, The Land, inspired by a Vita Sackville-West poem, starts brilliantly, unfolding bleakly with utter confidence. Maconchy’s palette is stark, utilitarian, with superb use made of brass and wind. You’d expect the two movements celebrating Spring and Summer to be lighter, fluffier affairs but they’re both edgy and full of foreboding. The Concertino for Piano and Chamber Orchestra, composed in 1928 is easier to assimilate; faster moving and more cleanly orchestrated. Brazilian pianist Clélia Iruzun is a confident soloist.
Maconchy’s Symphony for Double String Orchestra is tougher and more imposing. The antiphonal effects are well managed in this performance, and the slow fade in the final movement closes proceedings with understated eloquence. Only the monochrome Music for Woodwind and Brass oppresses rather than impresses. The ever-enterprising Odaline de la Martinez conducts, and she's a brilliant advocate for a genuine, underrated talent.