The English Kreisler.
The Violin Music of Albert Sammons.
Paul Barritt (violin)/Catherine
Hyperion CDA 67096 66'
Bagatelle, Op 3; Plantation Dance Op 24; Lullaby;
Canzonetta Op 20; Roumanian Air and Gipsy Dance Op 23; Petite
Chanson; Intermezzo Op 21; Bourrée Op 12;
Rêve d'enfant Op 10; Dance Caprice Op 15; Berceuse
Op 6; Sérénade de Printemps Op 5; Humoreske Op
13 no 2; A Song without Words Op 13 no 1; Cradle Song;
Pensée Capricieuse Op 9; Aubade Op 4; Air de Ballet
Op 17 no 2; Minuet Triste Op 17 no 1; The Faithful Bird
('y Deryn Pur').
We are all familiar with the celebrated violinist Fritz Kreisler's activities
as a composer, writing encores and salon piece which he at first attributed
to various eighteenth century names. Less well known is the fact that the
great English violinist Albert Sammons was also an expert turner of such
delightful trifles, and 20 of them are now presented here in committed style
by violinist Paul Barritt accompanied by Catherine Edwards.
78 collectors will already know some of these, for Sammons himself recorded
nine items of which five are played again here. My favourite among Sammons
78s, the early Fantasy on Irish Airs, is not one of them (and Sammons
recording has not been reissued), but Paul Barritt has selected widely, and
he presents music written over twenty years between 1913 and 1932, including
both the Sérénade de Printemps of 1913 and the
Lullaby of 1932, his last published work. In fact, even assembling
so large a collection of this music is quite a coup, for the printed copies
are not easy to find.
Sammons, remarkably a self-taught musician, in his music very much reflects
the salon repertoire of his time. Born in 1886 Sammons lived until 1957,
but his playing days were ended by the sudden onset of Parkinson's Disease
when he was sixty. His early professional career as a violinist was built
on leading the orchestras in various fashionable hotels of the day, before
being recruited by Beecham in 1909, though even then still not averse to
playing the hotel circuit to top up his income, when he must have serenaded
his well-healed patrons with similar morsels which became his models when
he developed his own repertoire later.
So this music is rooted in the violin, and Paul Barritt takes all his
opportunities for its idiomatic presentation. The 'Gipsy Dance' which accompanies
his soulful Roumanian Air, is an invigorating can-can, and Catherine
Edwards's vigorous accompaniment contributes in no small way to the
characterisation. Here it is nicely followed by the almost Elgarian opening
of Petite Chanson, typical of the way Barritt has provided constant
contrast in what too easily could have become a cloying programme.
Generally Sammons does not emulate Kreisler in looking backward for his formal
models, but when he does write a piece 'in olden style' as in the endlessly
regenerating Bourrée, the music - and any 'fireworks' - is
very much in the soloist's hands, the accompaniment almost busking along.
In fact Sammons (and Paul Barritt) seems to be more in their element when
responding to what would have been for Sammons contemporary influences -
the Russians, rag-time and folk song. Yet this is in essence Edwardian music
and one keeps returning to images of the music wafting from amid the potted
palms as the waiters tend their tables and shadowy dancers circulate on the
Writing for himself, Sammons was in no way restricted by technique, and some
of these gorgeous, if innocent, confections must be surprisingly difficult
to play convincingly, as in, for example the Dance Caprice with its
technical traps, left-hand pizzicatos, harmonics and soulful double-stopping
in the slow central 'Lento'. Paul Barritt tosses it all off with remarkable
technical command, equally relishing the lyrical delights of a Welsh folk-song
and a Lullaby for the composer's baby daughter.
This is a beautifully presented discovery. Recommended, though probably not
for consecutive playing once you have made the music's acquaintance.
and Gerald Fenech adds
Albert Sammons is perhaps better known for his prodigous career as a violinist
and especially as the principal exponent of Elgar's Violin Concerto having
made the work his own since its legendary premiere. However the subtitle
of 'The English Kreisler' also fits comfortably alongside the more overtly
virtuosic exploits of this charming man who also composed quite a few salon
pieces as demonstrated on this enchanting disc. The music is relaxing and
carefree although a hint of nostalgia does definitely creep in here and there.
There is not much to differentiate in the twenty odd numbers on disc although
some items such as the delightful 'Roumanian Air and Gipsy Dance' include
some colourful episodes, more than in the usual Intermezzo or Berceuse. The
violin is used as the principal melody maker as envisaged in the pensive
'Cradle Song' or the programmatic "Plantation Dance'. Barritt and Edwards
have recreated the salon style of the past with admirable style and one can
almost compare this disc with Ronald Corp's inimitable forays in the Light
Music repertoire from Britain and the continents. It certainly refreshed
and rejuvenated a hot summer morning for me! Hyperion's detailed notes and
usually enticing presentation set the seal on another winner!