Matthew Jones – Viola Recital (25 November)

Chromatic Fantasia
Sonata in E minor
Sonata in F, Op.11/4
Saudades do Brasil – Leme & Ipanema
Romeo and Juliet (excerpts)

Matthew Jones (viola) &
Michael Hampton (piano)

Reviewed by: Tony Pickard

Reviewed: 25 November, 2003
Venue: Purcell Room, London

Matthew Jones, winner of the prize for the most promising British player at this year’s Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition, opened his recital with the Kodaly’s arrangement of Bach’s Chromatic Fantasia for solo viola, which Jones despatched with technical facility. For the rest of the programme he was joined by the pianist Michael Hampton, who played with great passion in the Rebecca Clarke Sonata, despite sometimes drowning the violist. This might have been avoided had the piano lid been on the short stick instead of fully open.

After the interval they played Hindemith’s Sonata Op.11/4, arrangements of Milhaud’s Leme and Ipanema, and ended with excerpts from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet transcribed with Prokofiev’s blessing by the great Russian violist Vadim Borisovsky.

Throughout the recital Matthew Jones sounded more like a violinist playing the viola rather than a committed violist. His left-hand dexterity was well up to the demands of the music but his bowing arm lacked weight and he often seemed to glide over the notes rather than dig out the rich, nutty tones of the lower strings, which are the glory of the viola.

The programme notes made much of Jones’s versatility as a violinist, violist and composer as well as other accomplishments. If he is serious about making his mark as a violist he should consider cutting back on his violin activities. Interviewed on the previous evening’s “In Tune” (BBC Radio 3), Jones did not sound fully appointed to the viola. This is a pity since in his encore item, Milhaud’s La Californian, Jones displayed the wit and humour that he had earlier shown in verbally introducing his recital items.

The recital circuit needs young players with personality as well as technique. Matthew Jones has some way to go to fulfil the promise that the Tertis Competition judges discerned in his playing.

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