Elgar and Vaughan Williams are such a regular, albeit harmonious, pairing, that at first glance Tamsin Waley-Cohen's latest disc with the Orchestra of the Swan looks as if it should have a big, neon, 'So what?' sign swinging above it. Particularly given the inclusions of Vaughan's Williams's much-recorded The Lark Ascending, and Elgar's popular Serenade for Strings. However, this double homage to strings and English composers is engrossingly good.
Topping and tailing the disc are the two works for solo violin and string orchestra by Vaughan Williams. His music's evocative, pastoral antiquity can make it susceptible to syrupiness, but not here; rustic punchiness and a sprightly light tread are the hallmark of his barely-known Concerto for Violin, while Waley-Cohen's playing is memorable for the confident, earthy grit balancing its sweetness. Then, this interpretation of The Lark Ascending has a steely British stoicism that gets under your skin. Waley-Cohen's high-register lines are satisfyingly sure and rounded, and she's gorgeously supported by the orchestra with some lovely woodwind and brass solo turns.
The contrast provided by disc's less obviously folky, central Elgar section means that the atmosphere of freshness doesn't flicker for a second. This Serenade is ear-prickingly youthful and vibrant, its sparky grace a perfect foil to the strength and vigour of the Introduction and Allegro.