Classical CDs Weekly: Bartók, Tchaikovsky, Edwards, Sibelius, John Wilson

12.03.11
Adele Anthony
The Arts Desk

By Graham Rickson

Two hefty discs of violin concertos and a collection of British light music

Ross Edwards: Maninyas, Sibelius: Violin Concerto Adele Anthony (violin), Adelaide Symphony Orchestra/Arvo Volmer (Canary Classics)

Another pair of violin concertos make unusual but effective companions on this disc from Adele Anthony, known to some as the wife of violinist Gil Shaham. She’s superb. Her sound is a bit less steely than Sokolov’s, and she makes a glowing case for Australian composer Ross Edwards’s Maninyas – its title referring to a made-up word characterising what Edwards saw as "dance-chant". The concerto was completed in 1988, after Edwards’s return to Australia from England. And you do sense a feeling of relief, of delight at coming home, in this vibrant, colourful music. Edwards writes that the sounds of droning cicadas informed the piece’s style – the irregular stops and starts, the rhythmic instability suggest this. You hesitate to describe the work as sounding Australian, but there’s a brightness, a sun-drenched warmth to the sonority that can become almost oppressive at times. Edwards’s unashamed embrace of tonality is also disconcerting, but it’s hard to resist, particularly in the brief third movement chorale. And it’s magnificently played by Anthony, whose athleticism in the faster sections is staggering.

If you accept that Maninyas’s character is rooted in the Australian climate and landscape, it’s a short step to accepting Sibelius’s 1904 Violin Concerto as a work suffused with ice, grit and damp. I love Sibelius but have always found this the hardest of his large-scale works to admire. The first movement always feels a little too baggy, with too many stops and starts before things seem to get moving. But Anthony’s slow movement is ecstatic, and she closes proceedings with a finale that’s infectious and ultimately thrilling, despite an expansive tempo. She’s superbly accompanied by Arvo Volmer’s Adelaide forces, and the recording is nicely balanced.