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Eugène GOOSSENS (1893-1962)
Sonata No. 1 in E minor for Violin and Piano (1918)
William HURLSTONE (1876-1906)

Sonata in D minor for Violin and Piano (1896?)
Percy TURNBULL (1902-1976)

Sonata in E minor for Violin and Piano (1925)
Madeleine Mitchell (violin); Andrew Ball (piano)
Recorded at Wathen Hall, St Paul’s School, London, 5-7 August 2002
SOMM SOMMCD 031 [63:10]

Something of a rebel as a Royal College of Music (RCM) student, Eugène Goossens recalled, in his autobiography, Overture and Beginners, that, Stanford, his teacher regarded him as ‘a lost soul’ for listening to such ‘pornographic rubbish’ as Richard Strauss’s Elektra. Undeterred, Goossens went on to absorb such ‘modern’ idioms as well as those of Debussy and Ravel in his works including this deliciously melodic and romantic sonata, written in 1918 and first performed at the Wigmore Hall by Albert Sammons (its dedicatee) and William Murdoch on 1st May 1920. Goossens remembered that the première was a great artistic success ‘They play it con amore’ and he was so impressed by the artists’ performance that ‘he despaired of ever hearing it played that way again.’ I doubt very much if he would have anything but praise for Mitchell and Ball’s intensely heartfelt performance; so poetic in that lovely central Molto adagio and so invigorating in the breezy final Con brio.

Another precocious RCM student, William Hurlstone, died at the tragically early age of 30. He is best remembered for his Piano Concerto and Fantasie-Variations on a Swedish Air (both to be heard on one precious album recorded by Lyrita Recorded Edition SRCS100 many years ago, alas no longer available). He composed a number of chamber works including a rather eccentric Phantasie Quartet in E minor that won him the 1905 Cobbett Prize (another Lyrita album SRCS117 still consigned to vinyl perdition). This Violin Sonata in D minor was first performed at the Royal College of Music (pictured on the album cover above behind the two soloists) on 3rd February 1897. The mood is more introspective than the Goossens work with a shadowy thread through its melodiousness. A juxtaposition of sustained melancholic lyricism, and livelier dance material constitutes the central movement effectively combining elements of slow movement and scherzo. The final Allegro scherzando brings sunnier, sprightly music with some quirky harmonic progressions offering contrasting depth, and surely there is a passing hint of Elgar in Chanson de matin mood.

Percy Turnbull, the third RCM student featured in this recital, studied composition with Holst, Vaughan Williams and John Ireland, besides attending classes with Dunhill, Dyson and R.O. Morris. Winning the Mendelssohn Scholarship and the Arthur Sullivan Prize he won the approbation of his teachers. He became highly regarded as a recitalist at the RCM, at the Wigmore Hall, and as an accompanist in the early days of British radio. His one and only extended instrumental work, this Violin Sonata, was composed in 1925. It was first performed on 24 June at the RCM with the composer at the piano partnering Marie Wilson. It then languished until it was revived in 1983 by Ann Hooley and Robin Bowman at the University of Southampton. There is an attractive out-of-doors freshness about the opening lyrical Allegro (but with a sombre melody low in the violin’s compass) which like the Goossens work nods towards Debussy and Ravel - and John Ireland. The violin’s yearning melancholy and drooping piano chords, suffuses the lovely central Andante moderato that leads to a passing defiant statement by the piano. Turnbull’s playful Finale recalls Ravel particularly in the piano writing but it is the violin’s lovely nostalgic central song that haunts.

Three gorgeously, lyrical, romantic British violin sonatas played with great affection by Madeleine Mitchell and Andrew Ball. Highly recommended.

Ian Lace



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