We now live in good times when it comes to Ireland's chamber
music. Single disc surveys of the string sonatas are also relatively
plentiful. I've referred to a few at the end of this review
for ease of reading, though other recordings are certainly around.
Now at budget price comes the latest entrant and it does what
Dutton should have done when it released its historic disc of
the composer playing the Violin Sonatas with august colleagues
Sammons and Grinke but not including the Cello Sonata with Antoni
Sala; Naxos has sensibly presented all these three sonatas together;
normally the fiddle player will baulk at this and include some
of Ireland's morceaux for his instrument. But the difference
here is that all three performers are members of the Gould Piano
Trio, so democratic instincts win the day. I should note that
the Sala-Ireland 78 has now recently and belatedly appeared
Dutton coupled with Ireland playing some of the piano music
and Pears singing some of the songs.
I think Ireland would be impressed by the space the Gould-Frith
duo give the opening movement of the First Sonata. Ireland was
particular about a full justice being paid to his piano writing;
even so this duo is a full minute slower. They are touchingly
refined and warm in the lovely slow movement with some splendidly
conceived phrasing and articulation from Frith. The Second Sonata
reveals the fine detailing, the precise exploration of Ireland's
writing, that this duo invariably locates. Gould is a refined,
unfussy player with a slightly tight vibrato in the higher positions.
Frith doesn't overpower her in the more strenuous passages;
ensemble is fine, and so too the recording balance in Champs
Hill. I like the way Gould blanches her tone in the slow movement,
much as she did at times in the slow movement of the First,
though I feel a lack of power in the finale in its more tempestuous
passages. Nevertheless this and the companion sonata are admirably
shaped; the brightness of the playing and its tempo-related
intelligence remaining highly enjoyable and rewarding to hear.
The Cello Sonata is a work that produces little real tempo variation
among performers. Some take the finale a little faster, or a
little slower, but in the main it's interesting how consistent
performers over the years continue to be. If you were a betting
man you could lays odds-on that a performance will last 20:35
and not be more than 20 seconds out either way. The differences,
of course, lie in inflexion, and in the relative depth accorded
the central slow movement. Alice Neary plays with considerable
conviction, and ratchets and releases the tension with acute
insight; I'm thinking in particular of her way - Frith's too
- as the first movement reaches its powerful ascent. There's
discreet tenderness in the slow movement and a colloquial vitality
to the finale, with Frith as ever keeping things alert and energised
at the keyboard. Single recommendations are very difficult but
as a trio of performances this Naxos disc brings plenty of character
and perceptive musicianship to the table.
see also review by
Both violin sonatas and the Bagatelle played by Michael Davis
and Nelson Harper on VMM2009. They're a bit slow in the central
movement of the Second Sonata (review).
Both violin sonatas and various small pieces for violin and
piano played by Paul Barritt and Catherine Edwards on Helios
Good in No.1, they are very fast in No.2 - too fast for my tastes.
Violin Sonata 1 and the Cello Sonata with the Second Trio; Daniel
Hope, Julian Lloyd Webber and John McCabe; ASV GLD4009 (review).
Violin Sonata No.2 in 'English Romanticism' disc, Oliver Lewis
and Jeremy Filsell. Hold onto your hats for the unprecedentedly
(impossibly) fast tempi. Guild GMCD7120.
Chamber box on Chandos CHAN9377/78 with Lydia Mordkovitch, Karine
Georgian and Ian Brown (review).
Chamber box on Lyrita SRCD.2271; Neaman, Navarra and Parkin
with mentions of Chandos and other performances).
Historic choice; Ireland with Grinke (No.1) and Sammons (No.2)
plus Phantasie Trio and Holy Boy; Dutton CDLX 7103 (review).