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The English Viola
Arthur BLISS (1890 – 1975) Viola Sonata (1933) [26:11]
Frederick DELIUS (1862 – 1934) Violin Sonata No.3 (1930) (arr. Lionel TERTIS (1876 – 1975) (1932)) [16:30]
Frank BRIDGE (1879 – 1941) Allegro appassionato (1907) [2:17]; Serenade (1903) [2:41]; Souvenir (1904) [4:00]; Gondoliera (1907) [4:06]; Pensiero (1908) [4:15]; Norse Legend (1905) [3:33]; Berceuse (1901) [3:34]
Enikö Magyar (viola), Tadashi Imai (piano)
rec. 10, 11, 13 July 2009, Phoenix Studios, Budapest. DDD
NAXOS 8.572407 [67:52]


Experience Classicsonline

The viola always spoke to English composers of the late-romantic period. It must have been something to do with the slightly despairing English soul, as well as the repressed emotion in the fabric of our make-up. This is particularly true of Delius’s Third Violin Sonata in this gorgeous version for viola by Lionel Tertis. We already know of Tertis’s prowess as an arranger from his version of the Elgar Cello Concerto (Conifer CDCF 171). This version of Delius’s Sonata is very appealing indeed. There seems to be an extra strain of melancholy here, and the third movement, in particular, has a lovely stroll-in-the-country feel to it. The whole recording is suffused with a delicate sunset glow; Delius would have been most pleased. Magyar and Imai play this quintessentially English work to the manner born; it is a fine interpretation and performance.
The seven Frank Bridge miniatures are fascinating for they are seldom heard, despite being, in the main, light in texture and pleasing in language. Five of them are arrangements of works for, mainly, violin and piano. Bridge was a violist so you can rest assured that these are perfectly laid out for the instrument. Allegro appassionato and Pensiero are the original viola compositions; the former is wild and passionate and the latter quiet and thoughtful. Serenade is full of decoration, and a good tune, while Souvenir is good all round; a strong tune, pleasantly harmonized, makes its way through this piece. Gondoliera starts as a study in strange birdsong but soon alights on a sweeping tune, perfect for any type of light music – and this tune is a real winner. Norse Legend is another rocking piece, not a lullaby but some kind of boat song. Perhaps this is the long lost song of the maidens left behind when their men go off a-Viking. The Berceuse makes for a marvellous “they all lived happily ever after” close.
The recital starts with Arthur Bliss’s Viola Sonata. This is a large-scale work, full of passion and bravura. I find many of Bliss’s orchestral works to be overwritten; he seems never to know when to stop. With chamber music he always understands what he is doing, where he is going and what will make the composition interesting to the listener. This Sonata is certainly well written and has a fine sense of purpose. Its language is cosmopolitan and is none the worse for that, for although firmly rooted in central Europe, Bliss was still an English composer. Perhaps Magyar’s Hungarian soul has had something to do with the intense longing this performance seems to have.
The performances are excellent, really getting to the heart of this music, which is superb. The sound is very good and the notes helpful. This is a must for all lovers of English music, and anyone purely interested in music for the viola. I loved it.

Bob Briggs



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