Acclaimed violinist and prolific recording artist Philippe Graffin scored a major coup when he unearthed the Violin Concerto of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, the Afro-English composer whose star has waned since the height of his fame at the turn of the last century, but has rapidly risen again on the strength of this world-premiere recording.
Coleridge-Taylor’s education was as English as they come - studying at the Royal College with Stanford alongside such luminaries as Vaughan Williams and Holst - but his most powerful influences were the folk music and poetry of African-Americans and American Indians, reinforced by his first visit to the US in 1900. References to and inspiration from spirituals and slave songs abound in the Violin Concerto, making the coupling of the Violin Concerto by Dvorák, who was equally inspired by American idioms, apt indeed. In fact, the great American violinist Maud Powell who championed Coleridge-Taylor’s works and premiered his Violin Concerto in June 1912 - called him the "colored Dvorák". In an interesting twist, the US premiere was nearly derailed when the original parts sank with the Titanic!
Under the inspired direction of British-born conductor Michael Hankinson, the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra is a musical miracle in a country whose national priorities seem a far cry from promoting Western classical music. Established in 2000 by a multi-cultural group of committed musicians, the JPO have created an exciting ensemble whose aims extend to the musical education of their public and, thanks to this recording, resound worldwide. Their motto: "A nation that turns its back on its culture turns its back on itself".
- Recording of the Month -
"...Make no mistake the Coleridge-Taylor is a vivacious and captivating work which I guarantee that you will come to love. It is aptly harnessed with the Dvorák and if you know the Dvorák work and love it then you will have a good feeling for what to expect from the Coleridge-Taylor without it being in any way a carbon copy."