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Benjamin BRITTEN (1913 - 1976)
Suite for Violin and Piano Op.6 16'00"
Elegy for Solo Viola (1930)* 5'50"
Cello Sonata in C Op. 65** 22'16"
Six Metamorphoses after Ovid for solo oboe Op.49*** 14'13"
William WALTON
(1902 - 1983)
Piano Quartet 28'52"
Violin Sonata* 26'00"
Five Bagatelles for Guitar ** 14'10"
Soloists of the LSO & Israela Margalit
Jon Alley & John Lenehan (piano) Israela Margalit (piano) Tom Kerstens (guitar)
Recordings: BRITTEN. Conway Hall, London 14 / 12 / 94; 14 / 11/ 94 * ;1/ 12 /94 ** All Saints, East Finchley 4 & 5 Jan '95 WALTON. All Saints, East Finchley 29 / 9/ 95; Conway Hall, London. 28 / 8 / 95.* St.John's, Downshire Hill, Hampstead. 14 & 16 Sept 1994** DDD
EMI British Composers CZS5 73989 2 CD1 58'19" CD2 69'02"
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Two of our leading composers, each better known in other fields of music, share this British Composers Chamber Music double CD from EMI. They are not the sort of names that one would normally link instinctively, but they would rank high on any list of composers of the last century (Yes, that's how we must refer to it now).

Britten, of course, wrote such an immense range of music that to most music lovers his smaller scale pieces - as on this disc - will, at least, be known to exist. Walton's music, outside his symphonies, choral works and film music is not well known, though he wrote a handful of chamber works and encouragingly, there has been at least one other chamber recording recently for review.

The Britten Suite for Violin and Piano has the early Opus number 6. The piece was started in 1934 when B.B's mother took her son around the continent to try to make some useful musical contacts and he finished the five-movements plus introduction work on his return. I haven't heard the piece for years and had forgotten how interesting it is. Though the recording is not of a live performance it has the feel of one with a thoroughly committed pair of players. The performers s throughout (with one exception - Israela Margalit on piano in the Walton Quartet) are from the LSO and are fully credited in the disc notes. They are exemplary in this first work. The Elegy for Solo Viola(1930) written for the composer's own second instrument at which, as you would expect he became extremely proficient, is a meandering , introspective piece, almost valedictory - written , we are told, when he was leaving school.

The Cello Sonata in C was written for 1961 for the composer and Rostropovich to play at Aldeburgh that summer and they went on to make a bench-mark recording. This is a work that grows in stature with each hearing and the disc offers a version that is of the highest standard. Strong reminders of Bartok in an all pizzicato second movement scherzo, a deeply felt Elegia, a March highly reminiscent of Schostakovich. Plus some cello playing that sounds as if it shouldn't be possible. A powerful, most impressive reading with technical standards to match from both players.

The variety introduced by the oboe is welcome in a disc of this nature. In Six Metamorphoses after Ovid , written for oboist Joy Boughton (daughter of composer Rutland) in 1961. Each tells a brief story involving such as Bacchus, Narcissus, Arethusa and, of course, Pan. Attractive, short pieces, beautifully played.

William Walton's Piano Quartet is basically a teen-age work, written in 1918 / 19 then revised a couple of years later before publication and first performance in 1924. The first movement, brimming over with sparkle and animation has a recurring violin theme and with three string parts instead of four, the more open texture is a gain. The allegro scherzando second movement has some of the spiky rhythmic drive that we expect from the composer and includes a fugal passage and a return of the opening violin passage from the first movement. Anadante Tranquillo is the marking for the third movement (using a theme from Ravel) and its treatment is warm, flowing and thoroughly convincing. The string playing is superb and the balance with piano is just about right. Haunting stuff from a tender youth. The finale - allegro molto - again brings back the first movement theme, has a central restful interlude in a hard -driven passionate movement that has reminders of Petrouchka. Well worth hearing.

The Violin Sonata, a commissioned work written for Menuhin and Louis Ketner, was completed by Walton in 1949. T he performance on this disc of a two movement work does not include the Scherzetto that Walton withdrew and published separately later. It was written just after the death of a close lady friend and the loss pervades the whole work. The work, lyrical, inventive and technically demanding is given a performance of considerable stature. Janice Graham, another of the first rate LSO players, and Israela Margalit are utterly convincing in their roles.

The Five Bagatelles for guitar, written for Julian Bream, and edited by him, date from 1971. Walton was rather offhand and dismissive about the piece himself, but they make a little-known but attractive inclusion.

The recordings, from various venues and times, are excellent, and the playing magnificent. Not perhaps the easiest of going for the general listener but there are some gems in there. Well worth buying.


Harry Downey


Harry Downey

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