Thursday, 23 April 2015

Malcolm Lipkin: From Across La Manche

It is great news that Malcolm Lipkin’s (b.1932) Symphonies have been released on Lyrita Records. Until I see the liner notes of the new CD I cannot be sure of the exact chronology and dates of these three works. Seemingly, they were composed and revised over a thirty year period with the Sinfoni di Roma having been begin in 1958 appearing in 1965, the second, subtitled The Pursuit dating from 1975-79  and the final symphony ‘Sun’ being written between 1979-86.  Based on some recordings of performances of the 2nd and 3rd Symphonies uploaded to YouTube it promises to be an exciting release.
In 1998 Lipkin produced his Suite: From Across La Manche. It was commissioned by the Primavera Chamber Orchestra.  This ensemble was formed in 1986 by their founder and artistic director Paul Manley. There was a definite intention of bringing ‘joie de vivre’ associated with the Italian word for ‘spring’ into their performances.  Their repertoire is wide-ranging and includes Moeran, Debussy, Mendelssohn and Ibert. New works have included commissions from Paul Patterson, Patrick Gowers, Gavin Bryars, Philip Glass as well as Malcolm Lipkin.
From Across La Manche has three contrasting movements: Overture, Ballade and Dance-finale. It lasts for just over quarter of an hour.
The Overture is a powerful and vibrant piece of music that is not really ‘light’ or ‘miniature’ in character, but has considerable rhythmical diversity. The sound world of this music is possibly Shostakovich, however one reviewer has suggested the feel of a Hitchcock movie. The Ballade is written in an arch form and is less frenetic and disturbing than the preceding movement. This is reflective and often introverted music with a certain degree of intensity in the middle section. I wondered if there is not a touch of Mahler here.  The liner notes for the Naxos recording of this work point out that the Dance-Finale contains a bar of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (spring) and uses the rhythm of the Polish Mazurka to provide the basic material for this movement. Bartok’s string quartets also seem to have a place in this finale. Perhaps the composer opted to use different strands of European musical history to define this ‘celebration of Europe?’ From Across La Manche was seemingly first heard ‘across the channel’ in the north of France. It is an excellent example of English string writing and should be in the ‘popular’ repertoire
This exciting and technically challenging work is available on English String Miniatures Volume 6: NAXOS 8.8557753. Gavin Sutherland conducts the Royal Ballet Sinfonia. 

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