Fascinating and convincing choral approach to a violin concerto favourite.
For readers of The Strad, the main focus of interest in this radiantly engineered disc is Jennifer Pike’s enraptured rendering of Paul Drayton’s 2018 arrangement of Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending. The outer sections are sung as a vocalise, with the central section becoming an inspired evocation of the George Meredith poem that inspired the work in the first place. The otherworldly effect created by integrating the violin (the most naturally ‘vocal’ of all instruments) with the magical, floated sonorities produced by the Swedish Chamber Choir under the highly gifted Simon Phipps is nothing short of entrancing. Indeed, hearing VW’s stunning invention hoisted gently and seamlessly aloft as if on warm summer breezes feels like a realisation of sounds and sensations at which the orchestral version seems poignantly to hint.
All of this could have been for nothing, were it not for the ravishing sounds produced by Pike at the peak of her powers, playing a glorious Guarneri ‘del Gesu’ loaned to her by the Beare’s International Violin Society. As she alternately weaves in and out of and flutters above the choral textures, it feels as though one were somehow miraculously listening to a lark in flight. No less unforgettable is her delectably golden-toned contribution to Ola Gjeilo’s Serenity of 2010.