Sonata for Violin, Viola and Piano
After The Eulogy
Adam Summerhayes (violin), Bridget Carey (viola), Alan Brown (piano), Catherine Summerhayes (piano), Clive Williamson (piano)
No details of recording venues and dates advised
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: February 2006
CD No: MERIDIAN
Duration: 64 minutes
Born in 1957 in Toronto, Tom Ingoldsby began his musical life as a pop musician, his guitar work a result of The Beatles’ success in North America during the 1960s. He even stood on the verge of a record deal with a rock group until rapidly back-pedalling, smelling something of a corporate rat in the way the industry conducted itself.
Turning eventually to a more academic approach, he studied with Morton Feldman at Buffalo in the 1980s, moving on to the Cleveland Institute, and has been composing in classical forms ever since. His music betrays little of his upbringing – certainly little to no pop riffs – more, it includes colour as one of its most integral features.
Dialogues for violin and piano, from 1989, is a powerful, anguished piece that begins from almost nothing – a sighing, double-stopped motif on the violin which eventually grows to a disquieting climax, Ingoldsby stressing wide-open chords of sevenths and ninths, a technique that finds use elsewhere in his work. Adam Summerhayes projects the forcefulness of the violin writing with an ideal tone for this music, presumably with his wife Catherine as pianist, though the booklet is not awfully clear on this and also lacks information as to where the recordings were made and on what date. The two musicians are an impressive unison at the close.
Following this relatively stark beginning is the concise, formally satisfying Piano Sonata No.1, the first of a projected triptych designed to be performed either together or separately. The work’s dedicatee Clive Williamson controls the music with an expert ear, and in the slower central section brings out chromatic parallels to Scriabin, building to a strong, arresting finish, the wide interval again prominent – this time a minor ninth.
Repeated hearings confirm this to be the most cogent piece of the four here recorded, though the equally imposing Trio makes a bid to usurp it. This unbroken span of some 26 minutes is cued onto a single track by Meridian – an initial annoyance, but on hearing the piece this makes good artistic sense, as it needs to be heard and experienced as a complete entity. While the work’s title is not abundantly clear – called ‘Trio’ on the back cover, but ‘Sonata for violin, viola and piano’ in the booklet, the latter is seemingly correct – it is conceived on a broad canvas, the opening violin line a wide legato, opening up the music before a more jarring, discordant climax a third of the way in. The piece then traverses relative stillness, a contemplative calm achieved before a strongly emotive, slightly mournful violin theme makes itself heard over rippling arpeggiated figures on the piano. As the piece erupts the three protagonists bring a big sound to proceedings before the music ends in something of a cloud, a mottled and far gentler coda. The recording is relatively close and the volume may have to be adjusted to take in pianissimo moments.
Coming full circle, the disc ends with another duo for violin and piano. After The Eulogy leaps into action with the piano’s stabbed first note, but settles into a more introverted frame of mind before building intensity once again. Ingoldsby’s music is fully involving in this way, a real sense of drama always evident, along with a firm instinct of structure. Anyone wishing for an induction to this interesting composer will find this a good place to start.