Two contemporaneous British composers, one long-lived – Richard Arnell (1917-2009) – the other less fortunate, Stanley Bate (1911-59): the former’s music for violin and piano is captured here, quite short in terms of minutes but not in quality, and supplemented by the latter composer’s 1947 Sonata. To Bate first, four concise movements – a lively and lyrical opener, Hindemith a presence, Bate fluent in sustaining a line, followed by an eloquent if heavy-of-heart slow movement, then a vigorous Tempo di Marcia and a devilishly-sustained Finale, rather more troubled than in Paganini’s pyrotechnics and set-off by intense asides.
The Arnell pieces, as ordered here, begin with Sonata No.2 (1949), angst-ridden and nervy in the rigorous first movement yet emotionally engaging, then a bittersweet and affecting Andante. If you are looking for a reference composer, it’s Prokofiev. The brief Finale comes across as bitty, however. From 1953 the Variations (seven in number, pithy in design, variegated in character) are on an undisclosed Theme – so let us assume it’s an original, in the manner of American pastoral music – and proves to be an engaging set, ending contentedly. If the Passacaglia (1942) is the most-sinewy and strictest piece here, then the First Sonata (1940, without opus number), notable for a seconds-long slow movement (in reality it’s a brief intro to the Finale), is of daylight and freshness, very attractive – and we’re back to Hindemith for stylistic pointers.
Excellent performances from this long-standing duo, and, as you would expect from Toccata Classics, production values are high (Michael Ponder) and the annotation extensive and informative, the guide being Lewis Foreman. All the above are recorded for the first time.