Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Violin Sonata in E minor Op.82 (1918) [26:22]
Gerald FINZI (1901-1956)
Elegy for violin and piano (1940) [7:50]
William WALTON (1902-1983)
Violin Sonata (1947-49) [27:37]
Daniel Hope (violin)
Simon Mulligan (piano)
rec. September 2000, Wyastone Studios
NIMBUS NI 5666 [62:10]

This is by no means a new release but it deserves to be reviewed and considered in the light of Ė in particular Ė the plethora of new recordings of Elgarís Violin Sonata. This was a work that used to be sparsely served on disc, but now has seen a most unusual and welcome renaissance.

Hopeís approach is one of daring concertante extremes. In this he and Simon Mulligan are of one accord. They locate the workís emotive heartland and sense the bigness of the landscape amidst the sometimes over-fussily Brahmsian violin figuration. They lock on to matters of dynamics, timbral shading, pinpoint treble piano sonorities, elastic melody lines and dramatic methodologies to propound this view. Itís a strong, powerful view but not one devoid of refinement or limpid reflective generosity.

The purposeful start, dramatic and masculine, leads to a second subject in which Mulligan thoughtfully supplies provocative accenting. Hopeís tone embraces what Iíll call the tenor register, his textures rich and bronzed, contrasted with the higher positions called for, to fine effect. Heís not opposed to throbbing tone either, as Iíve noted on other of his forays on disc, as long as it serves some underlying point. He and Mulligan play with plenty of elasticity, establishing a serious mien to the central movement, wistfully following its course with what will seem to some to be too etiolated a disposition. Strongly and vividly the duo lash into the finale, where the dynamic variations are again strongly etched. The reminiscence of the slow movement is suggested by Mulliganís pellucid coaxing and builds to a sweep, though itís not one that builds overwhelmingly to a climax.

The Walton sonata is less often performed and recorded and its bipartite structure can appear somewhat daunting. Hope however approaches it with commendable directness and no little sensitivity. His playing is finely chiselled and detailed, again giving a degree of metrical freedom to the lyricism which carries one across bar lines without ever eclipsing the formality of its schema. He reserves his most refined lyric gestures for the end of the first movement which closes with elevated surety. He and Mulligan play the pawkier variations with fine ensemble, whilst Hopeís bow weight is variegated cannily, and the episode where pizzicato sounds amidst the pianoís spare treble is an especially noteworthy example of spontaneous sounding precision.

Bisecting the sonatas in the programming is Finziís Elegy, the surviving movement of a projected Violin sonata. Itís not untroubled lyricism is astutely charted by the duo, and reflects strong virtues.

The Elgar-Walton coupling reflects that of Lorraine McAslan and John Blakely [CDRSN3060] and in historic terms Max Rostal and Colin Horsley [SBT1319]. Menuhinís performances of both were clearly pivotal and influential. My preference in the Elgar is Kennedy [CHAN8380] though I happen also to prefer the tempo decisions executed by Simone Lamsma and Yurie Miura on Naxos 8.557984. With regard to the Walton, Mordkovitch, with the Concerto, is on CHAN9073. Offering an equally strong, somewhat less personalised, performance are the Nash Ensembleís Marianne Thorsen and Ian Brown [Hyperion CDA67340].

Jonathan Woolf

Strongly and vividly realised ... see Full Review