MusicWeb

Maltese-born composer Karl Fiorini has written two deeply impressive concertos for violin and orchestral forces. The first is a concerto for violin and chamber orchestra, completed in 2007. It is constructed in five contrastive movements – the first short, the second somewhat longer, the final three equally sized. There is much detail to intrigue, not least in the frequently arresting harmonies, the assured dissonances and sheer lyricism embedded in the writing. Indeed there is much timbral complexity and a degree of turbulence, not least from the percussion, allotted a significant role relative to other sections. In the Chorale, Canone and Passacaglia fourth movement, where Fiorini’s powers of sonic imagination are perhaps at their height in this concerto, Emanuel Salvador’s intense tonal reserves are mightily impressive, the music’s allusive qualities gathering in incident. Vivid colour illuminates the finale – note the writing for clarinet especially. There are folkloric elements at work in the wind writing and skittering birdsong is to be heard.

The Violin Concerto No.2 (2011-12) is in the hands of violinist Marta Magdalena Lelek. This is a more openly expressive work but is still subject to the same intelligent structural and an expanded palette by virtue of being written for conventionally sized symphony orchestra. As well as being more unambiguously lyric in places it is also more abrasive and determined in metrical tread. Indeed, the mood is often sombre with the solo violin frequently a lone voice in the wilderness, or when set against a few orchestral voices. Her tone is less expansive than Salvador’s in the companion work but she lacks for nothing in clarity or intonation. Orchestral climaxes are cannily prepared, and powerfully delivered in this splendidly expert performance, equally well recorded.

These complex and distinctive works, full of active dissonance, elements of birdsong, and powerful emotional states, are highly auspicious. The earlier work was written before Fiorini hit 30. He is clearly a composer to watch – adherent of no fads, strongly focused on compositional essence, and unafraid of emotional extremes in his music-making. This is a splendid disc in every respect.

—Jonathan Woolf