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Arthur BLISS (1891-1975) Sonata for Piano and Violin* [11:00]
Henry WALFORD DAVIES (1869-1941) Sonata in A Major for Violin and Piano* (1893 rev 1895) [21:56]
York BOWEN (1884-1961) Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 112 [20:10]
Rupert Luck (violin); Matthew Rickard (piano)
rec. 16 August 2010, Wyastone Concert Halls, Wyastone Leys, Monmouth. DDD
*world première recordings
EM RECORDS EMR CD001 [53:06]

Experience Classicsonline

The English Music Festival has been one of the triumphs of the last decade. That it began and that it continues is down to the fine judgement and sheer determination of Em Marshall. It is to my shame that I have not attended any of the festivals to date. Now Em branches out ambitiously with a record label that embraces the rarer lyrical tradition of English music. There are many more discoveries yet to be made. We are told that “EM Records will release a mixture both of studio recordings and of live recordings from the Festival, giving listeners the chance to experience the fullest possible range of the Festival's work. In keeping with the unique spirit of the Festival, each disc released by EM Records will contain at least one World Première recording. … The label's mission is to ensure that no English works worthy of hearing are ever again left unavailable to listeners. It represents a ground-breaking enterprise, presenting repertoire that, though previously unrecorded, is vital, vivid and powerful; and, through its commitment to this endeavour, complements the pioneering work of a leading and internationally-acclaimed Festival.” Quite apart from this disc other CDs are planned including the world première recording of Holst's The Coming of Christ – which received its first performance in modern times at the 2010 Festival at Dorchester-on-Thames. Also on the shortlist are David Owen Norris in a selection of Roger Quilter's piano music and the Syred Consort under Ben Palmer in part-songs by Rawsthorne and Haydn Wood.
The present disc opens with the impassioned single movement Bliss violin sonata. This is a red-blooded piece of writing and it remains a mystery why Bliss withheld it. It is perhaps because the music inhabits the style of Great War Howells (especially the Piano Quartet) and of the magnificent Rootham Violin Sonata. This is pastoral ecstatic writing cut from the finest vintage and adherents of the idiom must have this though Bliss enthusiasts might find it out of keeping with the composer’s mature voice. This is a world première recording. Rupert Luck and Matthew Rickard played these pieces at the 2010 English Music Festival.
The Walford Davies Sonata in A major is one of three that Rupert Luck has been invited to edit for the RCM. This grand-scale four movement work is mellifluously forthright with a significantly Brahmsian-Stanford accent. Luck and Rickard hold nothing back and this is a highly emotional piece of writing which etches its way into the memory on first hearing. The romantic tendency is mixed with the piano’s heroic vehemence in a sturdy third movement. The finale mixes in a degree of desperation amid its hurly-burly clamour; a touch of the Brahms Hungarian dances perhaps but not light of heart.
The Bowen is romantic and stormily Tchaikovskian with the torrential tendencies of a Rachmaninov and the expressionist mien of Szymanowski; the latter especially in the middle movement. It’s a heatedly volatile mix that flares, smoulders, smokes, swoons and blazes. It also recalls the Rootham though probably predates it - a criticism of this disc is that dates of works are not given. The Bowen is a very fine, moving and exciting work – no half measures! The performance is fiery to the point of molten. Breath-taking stuff! It has been recorded once before by Krysia Osostowicz and Michael Dussek and issued in 2001 on a now hard to source Dutton CDLX7120.
There is nothing tentative about these performances which are highly skilled and completely dedicated and immersed. The only hint of blemish is that I did wonder whether the microphone needed to be quite so close to the players all the time. It does deliver a wonderfully enveloping experience but perhaps more distance, light and air would have enhanced the pensive episodes yet further.
The next English Music Festival takes place 27-23 May 2011. Details on the EMF website which is well worth looking at even if its archive persists in referring to Holbrooke’s grand operatic trilogy as The Cauldron of Anwyn when it is The Cauldron of Annwn. Trivial stuff but a minor irritant among so much that is valuable.
Luck and Rickard will be heard on another EM Records disc in world premiere recordings of two violin and piano works by Lionel Sainsbury: the Sonata op. 5 and Mirage op. 29. The couplings are the Howells Sonata in E minor and more conventionally - at least in repertoire terms - Walton’s Sonata. Luck has already recorded the Parry Sonatas with Daniel Swain on RR CD018-01 and ‘in the works’ is Stephen Matthews’ Violin Sonata with the composer at the piano. This will be on RR CD018-02. In 2011 as part of the EMF Luck and Rickard perform the Howells Violin Sonata 2 in a new edition by Paul Spicer, Sainsbury's Mirage, Paul Carr's Sonatina and Gurney’s Violin Sonata in E-flat major - all world premières. This concert takes place at Dorchester Abbey on 30 May 2011 at 11am. Other highlights - among many - include the final concert which features the world premiere of Bowen’s Rhapsody for cello and orchestra (a work just released on Dutton Epoch CDLX 7263) and RVW’s Pre-Raphaelite-themed Garden of Proserpine.
EM records have started out magnificently with this disc. We must hope to hear much more of Luck and Rickard. Let them continue to explore and harry the periphery rather than being drawn to the well-served ‘great and good’.

Rob Barnett











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