The first thing to say about this CD is that
it presents truly brilliant and sympathetic performances. The
second thing to mention is the excellent programme note written
by Alain Cochard. This is very much a model for how these things
should be written. There is a full discussion of the composers,
their works, the present repertoire and even contemporary critical
reviews. All this extends to an essay that is some 2500 words;
it is at once interesting, learned and entertaining - a pleasure
to read. The only down side of this CD is the very short length
of the programme. At forty nine minutes one feels that the record
company could have shoe-horned another work in here. Peter Racine
Fricker’s sonata perhaps?
The repertoire itself is, I suppose, a little
unusual for a French duet. I do not know why this should be, but
one does not readily associate Gallic musicians with music of
the 20th century English Renaissance. So it came as a pleasant
surprise to listen to this CD of one old favourite and two relative
The duet are sisters; Mireille and Lydia Jardon
playing violin and piano respectively. Lydia has previously made
a recording of Granados's Goyescas. However, Mireille
does not appear to have any other recordings to her credit. This
is pity. Her technique seems to me to be almost faultless; perhaps
a little hard-edged in one or two places. However, on the whole
this is truly beautiful and even revelatory playing.
Bridge's Violin Sonata H183 is not particularly
familiar. It was composed in 1922 and duly dedicated to Mrs Elizabeth
Sprague Coolidge, who was a wealthy American arts patron.
This is a great work; it is surprising that it is little known
and even less often recorded. It is a work that is part of the
cluster of post-Great War compositions that were to mark a sea
change in Bridge's style. Gone is the pastoralism and naked romanticism.
Present is a complex musical language complete with nods to atonality,
polytonality and bitonality. Yet somehow there is still a reflection
of the old composer underlying this 'modernism.'
The Sonata is in one movement - lasting just
under 20 minutes. It is composed in four sections or episodes.
The first is a complex and involved but never academic Allegro
molto moderato. This is followed by troubled Andante that explores
the depths of despair. It is almost scary in places. The Vivo
e capriccioso is Scherzo-like but with some dark passages. The
work ends as it begins, Allegro molto moderato. There is certainly
no consummation here. It is still shot through with pain and grief
and a sense of futility.
Britten's Suite for Violin and Piano
is an early work. It was first performed at the ISCM Festival
in Barcelona in 1936. This was just before the outbreak of the
Spanish Civil War. Britten was the pianist and Antonio Brosa was
the soloist. It is an excellent work written in five movements.
There is a very short introduction lasting a bare 30 seconds.
Soon we are launched into a bouncy Allegro maestoso in the form
of a witty march. The Moto Perpetuo is breathtaking. Yet there
is nothing predictable here. Lots of wit and humour with an occasional
sinister edge. This is fiendish music to play, however Mireille
Jardon brings it off with considerable technical skill. The next
movement is a lyrical lullaby that is in complete contrast to
the excesses of the previous movements. This is tender and beautiful
music. The last movement is a Waltz; a parody of palm court music.
Yet it is parody and not pastiche. Both composer and soloists
pull off this treat with great aplomb.
The last work from this exciting concert of English
music is from the pen of the Lancashire born Alan Rawsthorne.
Rawsthorne wrote for virtually every combination of instrument,
including much chamber music and orchestral works with and without
soloists. This present work was composed in 1959 and was dedicated
to the Hungarian violinist Joseph Szigeti (1892-1973). It is in
four movements, beginning with an adagio. This is dramatic and
profound music that stirs deep emotions. The following allegretto
calls for the soloist to play 'con sordino'. This naturally gives
an ethereal effect. It is intimate music that explores a number
of tonalities and dynamic effects. The Toccata is a great
tour de force combining excitement with moments of release and
even lyricism. The last movement is an Epilogue. It is
'signed' as being 'adagio rhapsodic’. This movement seems
to be tying up a number of loose ends. In fact it is a summing
up. The programme notes state that the Sonata concludes with 'freedom,
poetry and a dreamlike quality.' This is correct. This must be
one of the most mature and perfect violin sonatas in the English