This disc has Lionel Tertis stamped all over it. The pioneering
violist was the
inspirer of Bliss’s hugely impressive sonata. At the private first performance,
which he gave, Solomon was his piano partner for whom William Walton turned the
pages. Soon after that Rubinstein was sight-reading the piano part for a BBC
broadcast with Tertis. The Bliss sonata has had expensive tastes in pianists
- not to mention violists.
And now we have Hungarian-born and now London-resident Enikö Magyar to add
to the roster. She was a student of, amongst others, Martin Outram with whom
she presumably studied the sonata. Perhaps he even introduced her to it. He’s
already recorded it for Naxos [8.555931] on an all-Bliss chamber disc, so Naxos
is now sporting two competing versions, though the element of ‘competition’ is
lessened by the repertoire involved in each disc.
In any case there are strong points of divergence in their performances. She
very properly has her own ideas, and these are not simply to do with tempo. On
that point she is certainly slower in the first two movements than Outram, but
also tends to sculpt phrases rather more dramatically and succulently. She has
splendid tonal depth and this gives her sense of projection an almost theatrical
dimension. She plays moreover with flexible metre, but stresses the moderato
element of the first movement in particular, where Outram moves things on that
bit more tersely. It’s this degree of passionate commitment that I admire
so much in her playing. The slow movement’s opening and closing pizzicato
are draped in melancholia, for instance, and paragraph points are always etched
and alive. The vigorous figuration of the scherzo was ideally suited to Tertis’s
bold, masculine and dashing virtuosity and she launches its dynamism with superb
aplomb. So too the finale, ripely done, and which ends sonorously and decisively.
This is an excellent performance on its own terms. Collectors will have their
old-timers on the shelves: Forbes and Foggin (a big favourite of mine, recorded
on three Decca 78s), Downes and Cassini (Revolution), Vardi and Sturrock (he
made another recording with Weinstock too), Jones and Hampton [LIR011], Lederer
and Murray - as well as Outram and James Rolton. No Tertis though, which is a
great loss. My hunch is that he would have taken it far faster even than Outram.
Bliss always admired Tertis’s sense of ‘flow’ and this was
a characteristic of his playing.
But we have no Tertis recording, and nor do we of his own arrangement of Delius’s
Third Violin Sonata. This followed a few years after his similar work with Elgar’s
Cello Concerto. It works perfectly well and is susceptible to breadth of phrasing
and the rich exploration of the viola’s more melancholic tonal qualities.
Enikö Magyar and Tadashi Imai - whose success in this disc, and in particular
his splendid accomplishment in the taxing Bliss sonata - play the Delius in the
modern manner; quite slowly and with rich cantilena. They bring out its autumnal,
resigned qualities all the while imbued with a vibrant sense of its structure.
What I miss is the contrast between moods. The central movement could be more
capriciously drawn. Here the B section is very serious-minded. It’s of
a piece with the stance as a whole but I think it lacks contrast. So too the
finale, which most violinists these days don’t take con moto
The danger in this sonata is that of a ‘too samey’ tempo.
The disc is fleshed out by Bridge’s lovely morceaux. Only two, surprisingly
enough, were written for viola - which was Bridge’s own instrument. He
made a number of 78s as a quartet player. The Allegro appassionato
the original viola pieces - the former flowing and almost ecstatic, the latter
warmly textured. The Berceuse
is a songful envoi. They’re all characterised
excellently by this enterprising duo.
Though this is not actually a tribute disc to Tertis it can serve as an adjunct
to his argumentative but proselytizing genius for his instrument. More germane
to this review it announces another highly impressive young violist and duo.
Finally the Bliss recording is a strongly recommendable one and the Delius in
its viola incarnation is rare.
see review by Bob