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Rare hearing: Concert halls should take a chance on lesser-known composers like Mieczyslaw Karlowicz (Lebrecht Arts and Music) 

Have you ever heard of Frédéric d'Erlanger? Neither had I, until the other day. His Violin Concerto in D minor features in the tenth release of Hyperion Records' series, The Romantic Violin Concerto. The same company's Romantic  Piano Concerto series now runs to an astonishing 50 CDs. But of the myriad unusual pieces in these recordings, few are ever aired in a live performance. There's a peculiar gulf in content between concerts and recordings and it seems to be growing wider. 

Rare works are staple fare for independent record companies like Hyperion, Chandos and Harmonia Mundi. These labels are run by individuals who are passionate about their task and understand their "product" and its market. Even Deutsche Grammophon has just taken a punt on a rare composer, Grazyna Bacewicz, who features on pianist Krystian Zimerman's latest CD. Record collectors snap up such releases. But where are the concerts?

A couple of years ago I heard for the first time d'Erlanger's companion work on the Hyperion CD: the Violin Concerto by Frederic Cliffe, which hadn't been played for a century. It was a live performance — but one by an amateur orchestra. It was conducted by the enterprising Christopher Fifield, and the violinist was a passionate champion of unusual repertoire, Philippe Graffin. The orchestra's friends and family attended, plus a few rare repertoire junkies who had been alerted. Unfortunately the orchestra was not quite up to the challenge, so apart from Graffin's expertise, the total impression was elusive. He is the soloist on the new CD, with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, so his efforts have been rewarded. The concerto is beautiful. It's not Beethoven, but that doesn't mean it's not worth hearing. 

Recently I went to Cadogan Hall, where a touring orchestra from eastern Europe played the most popular programme imaginable: Rachmaninov, Grieg and Dvorak. The compositions were top quality, yet familiar far beyond overkill. The place was sold out and the piano soloist superb (I was there to hear him)— but the orchestra, finishing a severe tour, sounded as if it couldn't care less. This was sterling music, but the concerto apart, it wasn't worth hearing. 

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