Bliss
Sonata for Piano and Violin
Walford Davies
Sonata in A for Violin and Piano
Bowen
Sonata in E minor for Violin and Piano, Op.112
Rupert Luck (violin) & Matthew Rickard (piano)

Recorded 16 August 2010 in Wyastone Concert Halls, Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK
CD No: EM RECORDS EMR CD001
Duration: 53 minutes
Reviewed: March 2011
A warm welcome for the first release in the English Music Festival’s recording label, EM Records. Three violin sonatas kick-start this welcome enterprise, Rupert Luck and Matthew Rickard securing persuasive renditions of pieces by Arthur Bliss, Henry Walford Davies and York Bowen.
The work by Bliss, entitled Sonata by the composer despite its brevity, begins with a richly expressive introduction for the piano, the violin also passionate in its first entry, the musical ideas concise but far-reaching. Over the course of this unpublished single-movement, 11-minute work, this first recording taking advantage of recently found amendments to the score that Bliss made. If one were listening blind, then one might nominate this as an early piece by Ralph Vaughan Williams, and would be aided in this thought by finding some passages to be rather French-sounding (Vaughan Williams studied for a time with Ravel). It’s a rather lovely piece that fades to a passion-spent conclusion, but we should be told its date of composition or that it is not known; written before 1947 anyway.
Also new to the recording catalogue is the A major Violin Sonata by Sir Henry Walford Davies (1869-1941), probably best-known for composing the RAF March Past (its trio section seemingly written by George Dyson!). Walford Davies wrote five violin sonatas, three of which are unpublished and require editing, including the one here recorded, a task that Rupert Luck has undertaken In four concise movements, playing for a total of just over 20 minutes, the Sonata (1893/95) has Schumannesque and Dvořákian elements, music of unforced lyricism in the first movement, impulsiveness in the scherzo and intense in the slow movement that is entitled ‘The Monk and the Warrior’ (for which no explanation is offered in the annotation), and a driving finale. It’s a piece good to hear, save it lacks ultimate distinctiveness despite sterling advocacy from the performers.
York Bowen’s three-movement E minor Violin Sonata (once again undated in EMF’s presentation) is an assured and varied piece, quite nostalgic at times and having no truck for the advanced composing techniques that Bowen (1884-1961) must have been aware of – presumably it being Opus 112 places it quite late in the composer’s output – and with a spiky volatility that recalls Prokofiev. The movements’ concision and structural clarity are plus-points, the slow movement being wistful and hauntingly withdrawn, and the finale kaleidoscopic and optimistic.
With fine and committed performances, and a full and well-balanced recording, this release is a good start to a label that will hopefully run and run and indeed capture “The Spirit of England”.

 

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