English Viola Sonatas
Gordon JACOB (1895 - 1984) Viola Sonata (1978) [12:35]
John IRELAND (1879 - 1962) Cello Sonata in G minor (1923) (transcribed by Lionel Tertis (1941)) [19:12]
Malcolm ARNOLD (1921 - 2006) Viola Sonata, op.17 (1947) [12:11]
Frederick DELIUS (1862 - 1934) Cello Sonata (1916) (transcribed by Martin Outram (2009)) [10:01]
Lennox BERKELEY (1903 - 1989) Viola Sonata, op.22 (1945) [17:38]
Martin Outram (viola); Julian Rolton (piano)
rec. 19 - 21 October 2009, Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth, Wales, DDD
NAXOS 8.572208 [72:04]

One of the glories of the invention of the CD is the expansion of recorded repertoire. Here is an example of that - you would never have had such a recital recorded in the days of the, I must say, much missed, vinyl LP. Gordon Jacob has done particularly well with the advent of CD, and quite right too, for here is a musician who could communicate with players and audiences, young people and amateurs alike, and create music for all and every event and combination of instruments. From his arrangements for Tommy Handley’s ITMA radio show to two splendid Symphonies (fortunately now available on Lyrita SRCD 315) not to mention concertos, choral works, chamber music, a valuable addition to the military band repertoire, there’s about 700 works for us to investigate. I hope that someone, after hearing this very enjoyable Sonata will give us the two Viola Concertos - number 1, in particular, is a superb work. By the way, Jacob’s music didn’t suit everyone, “Foul music by Gordon Jacob just over ...” wrote George Lyttleton to Rupert Hart-Davis (or vice versa), but you cannot please everyone all the time. This Sonata isn’t foul; it’s very fair, a lovely piece, full of Jacob’s late-romanticism and worthy of a place on any concert platform.

We’ve been given some of Lionel Tertis’s transcriptions of other works over the years - Elgar’s Cello Concerto (Conifer CDCF 171) and Delius’s 3rd Violin Sonata (Naxos 8.572407) amongst them - and this version of Ireland’s marvellous Cello Sonata sounds very well, if, perhaps, one misses the plangent voice of yearning which only the cello can bring to some of the higher passages.

Malolm Arnold’s Sonata is an early work, and it’s quite astringent in places, but, ever the melodist, there are tunes aplenty. In three movements - the first two have strangely enigmatic endings - the work is brought to an ebullient conclusion with a Presto feroce. The viola may not seem to be the kind of instrument whose music would invoke the designation feroce, but Arnold achieves it, without losing any of the viola’s gentlemanliness!

Outram’s own transcription of the Delius Cello Sonata is more successful than Tertis’s of the Ireland for the simple reason that Delius’s work is more inward-looking. Berkeley’s Sonata is a very serious piece with a deeply searching slow movement. This is framed by a subdued, and thoughtful, first movement and a fast and energetic finale.

What a fabulous disk! English music at its best in performances of the highest order. This isn’t for a minority audience - viola players only - this is essential listening for everyone with an interest in music. With very good performances and recording this is another success for Naxos and a valuable addition to its growing catalogue of English music.

Bob Briggs  
A fabulous disk … see Full Review