OSO Soloist: Ralph Holmes
The English violinist Ralph Holmes (1937-1984), a student of Ivan Galamian and George Enescu, died tragically young, a few years short of turning fifty. These “previously unpublished BBC recordings” and the first appearance on CD of the Bartók are welcome additions to Holmes’s discography. Ralph Holmes first appeared as a soloist at the age of 13 when he played the Mendelssohn Concerto with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 1954 came his first Wigmore Hall recital, and in 1957 – the year in which he won the Grand Prix de Paris - he appeared on that BBC Television 'Concert Hour' programme later celebrated for the appearance of Percy Grainger playing the piano.
He was particularly associated with music by British composers, as well as such contemporary composers as Barber, Bartok and Berg, and in the latter's Violin Concerto had a notable success in Vienna.
Over many seasons he appeared at the Proms in most of the standard repertoire - the Mendelssohn, Max Bruch G minor, Brahms and Tchaikovsky – but in contrast his most recent appearance there was in partnership with Isobel Buchanan in Henze's Ariosi during the 1983 season. He was probably most appreciated in the UK for his championship of the works of British composers. His recording of the Delius Sonatas with Eric Fenby playing Delius's own piano is historic. It is good too, to know that before he died all the Delius scores for violin and orchestra (Concerto, Legende and Suite) were safely 'in the can' and wilt be issue dearly next year.
As well as championing the Bax, Britten, Elgar and Panufnik concerti (sadly none of them recorded) he single-handedly re-established the Harty Concerto with his Chandos recording, and coupled it with Harty's totally forgotten Variations on a Dublin Air. His pioneering broadcast of the Havergal Brian Concerto, given in June 1969, appeared on an unauthorised Aries LP release - he was justifiably piqued that not only did he receive no fee for this, but his name was changed to the pseudonym of 'Emil Leibowitz' . The final straw was not being able to get hold of a copy of the record; but credited or not, we now have to recognise it as a valuable part of his recorded legacy.
Concerts where Ralph Holmes played: