The violinist Rupert Marshall-Luck – who also wrote the very
capable liner-note - is the same Rupert Luck who recorded the
first EM Records release presenting Bliss, Bowen and Walford
Davies rarities with blazingly forceful conviction. That confident
fervour is to be found here as well with a brace of pretty much
unknown sonatas. This pioneering spirit continues to translate
into action and achievement. Never underestimate the sheer graft
in getting to grips with works that have been, to all intents
and purposes, unheard for many years if ever.
The Holbrooke Violin Sonata is closely related to the
revised version of the Second Sonata on Naxos
where you can also hear the First Sonata and the Horn Trio.
Forthcoming is the CPO recording of the orchestral version of
the Violin Concerto with the Third Symphony. For this listener
the music of this big-hearted romantic sonata recalls the singing
ecstatic lines of the César Franck sonata and of early Fauré.
I wondered if that Grasshopper title would signify something
effete or slight. It is neither. As for the Grasshopper
reference this must surely relate to the cadenza-style virtuoso
chirruping violin passage at 7:33 at the end of the first movement.
By the way this movement runs to 7:54 not the declared 7:24.
After a heartfelt Adagio comes an enthusiastically effusive,
full-tilt Vivace where the Grasshopper motto returns
in the piano at 3:40.
The Bantock Viola Sonata has been on my to-hear list
for many years. It all began when I read, back in the early
days of the British Music Society, that it had been performed
by violist Michael Ponder now a distinguished recording producer.
Then in November 1984 it was included in one of Phil Scowcroft’s
Doncaster Library concerts performed by Elizabeth Turnbull and
Raymond Lewis (piano). The reviewer referred to it as “mighty,
unfailingly lyrical”. I never got to hear Ponder’s version nor
Turnbull’s – more’s the pity - nor the sonata; not until now
It chimes well when coupled with a Holbrooke work. The two men
were of the same generation though Bantock died many years before
Holbrooke. Each was outside the usual RCM ambit of greatness
belonging rather to the dissenters of the RAM. Nothing is ever
quite that simple but we might cite the adulation of Brahms
as a characteristic of the Stanford-Parry luminaries at the
College while the Academy had the Wagner-Liszt-Tchaikovsky faction
espoused by Frederick Corder (1852-1932).
There are so many parallels between the two men. Each wrote
in a broadly turn of the century late-romantic idiom. Each had
a hankering for Celtic culture. Each wrote music for the nascent
brass band movement. There were differences too including that
Bantock’s character made him a very effective administrator
so he was able to hold down various music-academic posts. Holbrooke
was a more thrawn character with a prickly surfeit of self-confidence
quite out of tune with the organisational environment. Despite
clashes Bantock remained loyal and included Holbrooke works
in his concerts from 1899 when he conducted the New Brighton
orchestra all the way through to his very late recording sessions
for Paxton in 1946.
We do not know why the sonata sports the name Colleen.
Is it the generic reference to an Irish girl or is there a more
personal dimension? With Bantock it is likely to have been very
personal. The Colleen Sonata is a densely seething cauldron
of the passions, occasionally rather opaquely impenetrable in
its textures. The jig-finale is straight-talking and brilliant
and not with emotional depths. While his huge catalogue includes
the Hebridean and Celtic symphonies there is nothing
so directly dance-like as this jig material. In fairness it
alternates with a prize of a deeply moving melody at 3:02 onwards.
Also the finale transcends its dance roots with a massive insurgency
of heated romantic material – some of it rather Brahmsian.
There is so much Holbrooke activity so surely it cannot be all
that long before Naxos begin to reissue their Marco Polo Holbrooke
discs. These were issued in the 1990s and can still be had.
I have listed them after the end of this review.
The generous sponsors of this disc deserve recognition. The
list includes familiar names: the Granville Bantock Estate,
longstanding Bantock and Holbrooke advocate and distinguished
artist, Michael Freeman and Dr Patrick Waller who for many years
contributed generously and decisively to the success of MusicWeb
The violin and piano sound in Wyastone’s concert hall is nothing
if not commandingly assertive – a tribute to Recording Engineer,
Richard Bland and Recording Producers: Bjorn Bantock and Matthew
Gilley. Good to see a Bantock involved in this project. Em Marshall-Luck,
the presides over the continuing project as Executive Producer.
Holbrooke on Marco Polo
Ulalume, Bronwen Overture, The Bells Prelude, The Raven, Byron. Slovak Philharmonic Choir, Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Bratislava/Adrian Leaper. Marco Polo 8.223446.
Children of Don Overture, Dylan Prelude, The Birds of Rhiannon. National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine/Andrew Penny. Marco Polo 8.223721.
String Sextet; Piano Quintet; Piano Quartet. Endre Hegedüs, piano/New Haydn Quartet/Sándor Papp, viola/János Devich, cello. Marco Polo 8.223736