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TRIPLE DOUBLES - Three Double Concertos - Jaime Laredo (Violin) - Sharon Robinson (Cello) - Vermont Symphony Orchestra - Sarah Hicks/Troy Peters (Conductors) - 090404935428 - Released: March 2012 - Bridge 9354

Everyone knows the Brahms Double Concerto for violin, cello and orchestra. It displays not only the composer's genius, but the great potential for this combination of instruments. All things considered, it's surprising that concertos of this sort haven't taken off with composers. Until this collection arrived, I knew of only one other example, the Delius 1916 Double Concerto. Here we have three of them, all written in the last ten years or so, and all written for violinist Jaime Laredo and his cellist wife, Sharon Robinson. Laredo, best known as a violinist, is also the music director of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, though he passes on the conducting to two younger musicians for these recordings.

Richard Danielpour is a composer of wide renown in the United States. His work has been unfamiliar to me until now, unfortunately. His 1999 A Child's Reliquary was originally a piano trio but became a concerto when the composer orchestrated the piano part in 2006. It was written as a meditation on the short life and early death of Cole Carson St. Clair, the son of an American conductor, who drowned at the age of 18 months. Loosely constructed from some variations "around" the Brahms Wiegenslied (Cradle Song). It is a moving piece that rewards repeated hearings handsomely.

The Greeks of Antiquity recognized three kinds of love: Eros, Agape and Philia. Each of these is the inspiration for one of the movements of David Ludwig's Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra. Eros, the first movement, comes across as thundering lust, though there is a middle section with some suggestion of tenderness. Ludwig represents Agape as an evocation of unconsummated love, something like that of Tristan and Isolde. In this movement the soloists never play together until near the end. The effect is striking. The third movement, Philia, is a response to the teachings of Buddha, intended to sound celebratory, and for the most part it succeeds. Between the movements of this concerto there are what the composer calls interludes. They're short, serving to mediate the contrasting moods of the music before and after them. Another very fine piece.

If Daron Aric Hagen's Masquerade seems slighter at first than the other concertos, it's probably because it reflects something of the Commedia dell'arte tradition. In the sense that it represents a fairly specific story it is more programmatic than its disc mates.

So how are the performances? The word that first comes to mind is "magisterial." Laredo and Robinson play the music as though they own it which, in a sense, they do. As for the Vermont Symphony, it doubtless has its limitations, but they are not readily apparent in these recordings. Laredo and Robinson have also recorded double concertos written for them by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and Ned Rorem on Koch International Classics.

Richard Todd - May 2012