Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
The Complete Violin Sonatas
Violin Sonata in B, Op. Posth (1892) [24:41]
Violin Sonata No.1 (1905-14) [21:57]
Violin Sonata No.2 (1923) [13:17]
Violin Sonata No.3 (1930) [16:43]
Tasmin Little (violin); Piers Lane (piano)
rec. 18-19 February 1997, St Silas's Presbytery, Kentish Town, London. DDD
SONY CLASSICAL 88697532142 [76:40]

The four Delius violin sonatas are here done with unblinking and almost daunting passion. This playing glories in Delius's early sunrise as well as the sustained pain of his prolonged sunset. There is something of Franck in the 1892 Sonata in B Op. Posth. which is well worth getting to know. It may not be mature Delius but it reflects superbly confident writing in the highest romantic manner. Notable is the shredded and hooded tone of the start of the second movement introduction. The single movement Second Sonata drifts into a harmonic haze seemingly in sight of Bridge's lichen-hung brook where Ophelia drifts. The 1930 Third Sonata's piano part, in its meno mosso, touches on a twilight world recreated in Bax's songs to words by A.E. and Seamus O'Sullivan. This is a land of warm contentment and it is invoked with great allusive power in the heart-stilling lento (tr. 9). This final Sonata is closely related in mood to the Violin Concerto.

Delius chose well when he kept these sonatas to no more than 23 minutes; the latter two at about 13 minutes and 16 minutes respectively. He knew the balance between substance and the bounds of expressive duration. Tasmin Little and Piers Lane are treated to a thoroughly vivid recording and their performances engage at the same level. They are outstandingly recommendable across the competition including the Ralph Holmes/Fenby classic. The latter’s now rather dated-sounding 1972 recording can be found on a Unicorn-Kanchana disc alongside seven other volumes in the Fenby-Unicorn series. Tasmin Little has recorded quite a bit of Delius including the Violin Concerto and the Double Concerto. Piers Lane is no stranger to the composer either. He has recorded the final revision of the Piano Concerto for EMI Classics in 1994 (CFP 575983-2 (2003) and original CD release: EMI Eminence EMX2239) and the original version for Hyperion. The Delius songs are also in his catalogue, again on Hyperion, where he accompanies Yvonne Kenny.

The present disc first saw light of day on Conifer Classics 75605 51315-2 but quickly sank from sight when John Kehoe’s admirable label folded only to be revived as part of a Delius/Bridge double from RCA. The wonderful and very personal notes are by Tasmin Little herself and by Delius authority Robert Threlfall. He also prepared several volumes of the music for violin and piano for the Delius Collected Edition and it is his version of the early Delius tone poem Hiawatha that appears on the latest Dutton release.

To summarise then: magical performances and at bargain price.

Rob Barnett