Claudia Lasareff-Mironoff

William Henry Bell, who was part of London’s pre-World War I smart set before settling down in Cape Town, South Africa, fashioned a style derived from Vaughan Williams and the anthem tradition but colored with an air of mysticism. He was reputedly prolific and had some of his major compositions conducted by the likes of Thomas Beecham. But Cape Town was far from any music center, and Bell is now only a footnote in any survey of modern British music. Nearly all of his works either have disappeared or languish in the University of Cape Town’s library. That’s where four years ago Chicago-based violist Claudia Lasareff-Mironoff– then principal violist with the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra–uncovered the score of Bell’s viola concerto, dated 1917 and performed only once. It’s a brilliantly crafted work in which the viola–often written off as the violin’s clumsy cousin–shines, executing ecstatic arpeggios and rapturous long-lined melodies. The concerto’s title is Rosa Mystica, a reference to the Virgin Mary, and Lasareff-Mironoff’s research confirms that the music was in fact intended to depict the assumption–which explains all those ascending arpeggios. Lasareff-Mironoff has the virtuosic technique to carry them off–she plays the viola as if it were the king of strings. Accompanying her in this U.S. premiere, arranged for viola and piano, is the reliable Andrea Swan. Brahms’s Sonatensatz rounds out this recital in the Dame Myra Hess series. Wednesday, 12:15 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-744-1430 or 312-346-3278. TED SHEN