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Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Violin Sonata in E minor Op.82 (1918) [23:33]
Romance Op.1 (1878) [4:29]
Bizarrerie Op.13 No.2 (1889) [2:14]
Pastourelle Op.4 No.2 (1884) [2:55]
La Capricieuse Op.17 (1891) [4:05] Virelai Op.4 No.3 (c.1890) [2:07] Mazurka Op.10 No.1 [2:32]
Idyll Op.4 No.1 (1884) [2:51]

Chanson de nuit Op.15 No.1 (1897) [3:57] Chanson de matin Op.15 No.2 (1897) [2:37]
Salut díamour Op.12 [2:36]

Offertoire (1893) [4:19]
Simone Lamsma (violin) Yurie Miura (piano) rec. at Potton Hall, Suffolk, October 2005
NAXOS 8.557984 [58:17]

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One canít be certain of course that Simone Lamsma has listened to Albert Sammonsís classic 1935 recording of the Violin Sonata but Iíd be surprised if she hasnít. The contours are very similar and more to the point the expressive direction is very similar, unlike more recent performances, almost all of which go in for point making and drawn out drama to some degree or other. This then is a direct, immediate and powerful performance, even faster in the finale than Sammons, though a touch slower in the opening movement. I admit itís the way I like the Sonata and everything I say should be construed in the light of my admiration and appreciation of her sure instincts as to architecture and internal contrastive devices. These were qualities Sammons always displayed and nowhere more so than in this sonata, the sequential writing of which is almost miraculously hidden in his masterful playing.

However the Simone Lamsma-Yurie Miura duo makes a powerful showing. Thereís a strong sense of engagement between instruments, with the piano part avidly purposeful and very much more assertive than is often the case. In the finale Miura really comes into her own, presenting a great amount of detail with a clarity that is sometimes obscured in other performances. Sheís no wall-flower, ringingly declamatory and powerful, and drawing the ear, maybe not always to the advantage of balance.

Others violinists have phrased more generously than Lamsma and there are times in the first movement when she cedes to Vengerov, Midori, Kennedy and McAslan Ė to name a prime quartet Ė in phrasal and tonal sensitivity. Iím not quite sure she fully controls the first movement passagework either which, for all her architectural acuity, does come across as a touch stolid. Still sheís right to take the slow movement at such a bracing tempo Ė itís marked Romance not Adagio after all Ė and the eagerness she imparts to it is an antidote to more indulgent performers. And how well she deals with the finaleís reminiscence of earlier material Ė a real Sammons solution though ultimately lacking his artful preparation.

The smaller works contain a mix of familiar, less well known and downright obscure. Of the familiar Salut díamour benefits from a no-nonsense sugar-free diet, Chanson de nuit features Lamsmaís viola-rich lower strings and its companion Chanson de matin is youthful and eager. La Capricieuse has a fine lyric section but could do with more inflexion and vivacity in the outer ones. She certainly explores the genre lyricism of the other pieces with affection but not frivolity; a certain pleasing seriousness pervades her exploration of them. Virelai is charming and the Schumannesque aspects of the writing is generously explored. I doubt whether Elgar would be the name one would pick confronted by, say, the Idyll Ė inspired by a Scottish jaunt Ė but it makes for comprehensively enjoyably listening, however slight it may be.†

This all-Elgar disc will remind one of Nigel Kennedyís Chandos offering, one of his earliest recordings. It too presented the Sonata coupled with smaller pieces. His concertante take on the sonata is still highly impressive and I admire it, whilst preferring other solutions. McAslanís disc has just been re-released, coupled with the Walton, slower than the Naxos duo but elegant. Vengerovís coupling on Teldec is the DvořŠk Concerto, unusual bracketing to say the least. Avoid Rostal (Testament), Little (GMN) and Oliveira (Artek), but consider Bean/Parkhouse on EMI Classics for Pleasure and coupled with Beanís Concerto performance along with the other chamber works. If you want the Sammons itís available from Pearl, coupled with the Concerto. Itís also available on Naxos in a dogís dinner of a recital, coupled with the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante and some encore pieces. Wonderful playing, terrible programming.

For a bargain-priced recital however this Naxos entrant has real merit. Strikingly alert and forward-moving the Lamsma-Miura duo brings the sonata alive in a way bigger figures often signally fail to achieve.

Jonathan Woolf

see also Review by Michael Cookson


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