A Tribute to Ralph Holmes

0 of 5 stars

Sonata for Piano and Violin in F, Op.24 (Spring)
Sonata for Solo Violin
Sonata No.3 in G minor for Violin and Piano
Five Pieces – IV: Lullaby for a Modern Baby

Ralph Holmes (violin) & Peter Dickinson (piano)

Beethoven, Bax and Delius recorded by BBC Radio Stoke on 9 February 1981 in Walter Moberly Hall, Keele University; Bartók taken from Argo LP ZK36 released in 1977

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: January 2012
Duration: 70 minutes



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 These “previously unpublished BBC recordings” and the first appearance on CD of the Bartók are welcome additions to Holmes’s discography.

Beethoven’s ever-delightful ‘Spring’ Sonata receives a shapely and incisive performance. The first movement – unfortunately shorn of its exposition repeat – is fresh and detailed with some attractive interplay between pianist and violinist, although the former, Beethoven’s ‘first’ instrument in his titling being the piano, is rather backwardly balanced. Nevertheless, Peter Dickinson (the author of the booklet notes) plays with sparkle and sympathy, Holmes suitably verdant in his response. Holmes’s feeling for the music is most evident in lyrical asides, and the slow movement is eloquent. With a witty scherzo and swinging finale, this is a performance to treasure.

From the same recital, Arnold Bax’s Violin Sonata No.3 (1927) is initially a rhapsodic work even though its themes are clear-cut. Bax typically engages not only the heart and the head but also the imagination with his Celtic leanings and twilight expression, seductively played by both artists. If Delius is occasionally suggested, then the second and final movement, by contrast, is nearer to Bartók in its earthy drive. It is given here with panache before returning to earlier reverie only to re-visit music that Dickinson terms as “diabolical frenzy”. The ‘real’ Delius is summoned for an attractive encore, a piano piece with a melody marked “to be hummed or violin con sordino”. Lullaby for a Modern Baby is a curious miniature, tender and serene, beautifully played.

The sound is decent enough, the off-air tapes well re-mastered. The Bartók (1944) is less successful in this respect being over-processed with too much top removed; the sound is rendered duller than it surely is and certainly needs to be. Nevertheless, Holmes’s interpretation of this challenging work (one of Bartók’s final creations) is heroic, intense and insightful – and moving in the third-movement ‘Melodia’ – to complete a very welcome and recommendable release that is distributed through Regis Records.

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