The Strad's experts evaluate the latest string recordings
English Music for Viola. Works by Clarke, Walton, Bridge, Bax, Bliss, Vaughan Williams & Holland
Convincing performances that unearth some forgotten gems of English viola repertoire
Friday, 01 April 2011
Matthew Jones (viola) Michael Hampton (piano)
Clarke, Walton, Bridge, Bax, Bliss, Vaughan Williams & Holland
With this realistically recorded CD, Matthew Jones and Michael Hampton – collectively known as the Bridge Duo – enter Naxos’s ongoing series of rare viola repertoire. OK, there isn’t much rarity about Rebecca Clarke’s Sonata, arguably one of the greatest pieces ever written for this instrument, or about Arnold Bax’s dark, misty Legend, but the CD does include a few obligatory world premiere recordings: Theodore Holland’s Suite in D major (an agreeable if not tremendously original piece), Jones’s own effective transcription (from the violin) of William Walton’s Canzonetta and Scherzetto, two neo-medieval morsels related to the music for Henry V, and lastly the piquant Intermezzo culled by Watson Forbes from Arthur Bliss’s Piano Quartet. The CD is completed by Ralph Vaughan Williams’s posthumously published Romance and some pieces by the duo’s eponymous composer, transcribed by Veronica Leigh Jacobs from violin and cello originals.
Clarke’s Sonata, the one piece that is available in several rival recordings, receives a refreshingly swift performance, with its first movement ‘impetuoso’ indeed, as marked; after a gossamer Vivace, the slow sections of the finale could have done with more breathing space, but this is a most enjoyable rendition. With uncommonly beautiful tone and consistently imaginative phrasing, Jones and his tried-and-true partner prove most convincing advocates of this attractive repertoire.
Carlos María Solare
From the April 2011 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.