The music of James Francis Brown (b1969) is one of Britain’s well-kept secrets. Too well kept for my liking. This new release from Resonus is the first of any of his orchestral works, and what a disc it is! The Trio concertante (2006) is a glorious single-movement triple concerto for violin, viola and cello that belongs in the topmost rank of British string-orchestral music. The musical style may be rooted in Vaughan Williams, early Tippett and Britten, yet on closer acquaintance one realises that Brown’s music is truly all his own. A glorious listen, no wonder George Vass chose to perform it in his 60th birthday concert at St John’s Smith Square last year, which is where I first encountered it.
The Clarinet Concerto Lost Lanes – Shadow Groves (2008) is no less evocative, partly of the rural landscape of Norfolk but also as an exploration of the pathways of the mind, of the resonances and historical associations the real landscape calls forth. Admirers of Rubbra’s choral music will, I think, find much to enjoy in the three psalms comprising The Heavens and the Heart (2016).
Orchestra Nova’s performances are thoroughly committed and winning, proving themselves real partners to the four excellent soloists and splendid Royal Holloway Choir, all playing with a relish matched on the podium by Vass.
The sound is terrific, too.
A must-buy disc!