The composer Vaughan Williams conducts a rehearsal of the Halle Orchestra, 1956. (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Britten, Hindemith, RVW, Martinu (Claves)

The 1934 suite by Ralph Vaughan Williams demands a sympathy for the rolling contours of the English countryside

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It has been a while since the viola last had a powerful advocate. Timothy Ridout, 24 and British, is being touted as the next star violist. The evidence is laid out in these attractive performances with the Lausanne chamber orchestra, conducted by another gifted young Brit, Jamie Phillips.

The 1934 suite for viola and orchestra and orchestra by Ralph Vaughan Williams demands a sympathy for the rolling contours and modest beauties of the English countryside. The suite is stitched together from English folksongs, none of them individually arresting, which gives the soloist free rein to invest them with breath and passion. All very congenial.

Bohuslav Martinu’s Rhapsody-Concerto for viola and orchestra is a much tougher test, facing comparison with every leading violist of the past half-century. The soloist has a make-or-break entry: either change the pulse of the orchestra or become its prisoner. Ridout does this very well, not in an arrogant way but by a cool persuasiveness. There are more fiery accounts of the work – by Josef Suk, Rivka Golani, Nobuko Imai and others – but Ridout makes his case agreeably and with great sympathy for the work’s Czech rhythms.

Paul Hindemith’s 1936 Trauermusik, written in London on the death of King George V, is another work that benefits from soloist restraint; Benjamin Britten’s 1950 Lachrymae, far more subtly conceived, is a journey not a different kind of darkness – the loneliness of the long-distance creator. Ridout surmounts it very deftly. He’s certainly one to watch.

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