Commissioned by Max Rostal for Festival of Britain concert
The Violin Concerto of 1951, commissioned for the Festival of Britain, was Frankel's first major work for the concert hall and its relaxed and confident mastery is evident in the opening bars in which so many of his personal characteristics are epitomised. An ascending scale on the orchestral violins leaves behind itself a sustained major-minor chord, a falling phrase in the orchestral basses turns out to be the opening gesture of the solo violin which sets off without further ado on an intense wide ranging melody shadowed by the major-minor chord now on flutes and clarinets and underpinned by a solid yet chromatically inflected bass line. Chromatic expression and diatonic stability move side by side in complete assurance. Dramatic contrast in this movement is provided by brilliant arpeggiated fanfares on the solo violin accompanied, at one point, only by timpani, percussion and wailing harmonics on the orchestral violins. A brilliant and aggressive Allegro assai, alla burla, in effect a scherzo with trio (skilfully exploiting the soloist's natural harmonics), is the second movement, followed by a deeply moving slow movement in which the work's inscription (In memory of 'The Six Million') finds its most direct expression. The relaxed, almost casual fourth movement Grazioso, quasi Allegretto, seems at first an odd way to end a work of such tragic dedication, yet the acceptance of human frailty implicit in this music rather deepens the compassion of the earlier movements. The beauty and delicacy of the work's ending has an apt and touching irony.
© Buxton Orr