The Scottish Viola Ė A Tribute to Watson Forbes
Pietro NARDINI (1722-1793)
Violin Concerto in E minor arr in G minor by Forbes/Richardson (pub. 1950) [9:57]
Robin ORR (1909-2006)
Viola Sonata (1947) [16:17]
Alan RICHARDSON (1904-1978)
Viola Sonata (1949) [19:49]
Sussex Lullaby (1938) [3:17]
Sebastian FORBES (b.1941)
At Andrews Solo (2009) [4:36]
William ALWYN (1905-1985)
Viola Sonatina No.2 (1944) [8:37]
Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764)
Tambourin arr Forbes/Richardson (pub.1943) [1:24]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Sinfonia from Ich steh mit einem Fuss Im Grabe (1729) and Keyboard Concerto in F minor BWV1056 (1742) arr Forbes (pub.1948) [3:13]
Martin Outram (viola)
Julian Rolton (piano)
rec. July 2011, Wyastone Concert Hall
NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI 6180 [68:13]
 
There have been a number of eminent Scottish violists but William Primrose (1904-1982) and Watson Forbes (1909-1997) are the best known internationally.
 
In its title this disc pays geographical tribute to Forbesís place of birth, but itís by no means a geographically propagandist exercise. After all, Forbes studied the violin in London at the Royal Academy with a phalanx of English luminaries Ė Editha Knocker, Marjorie Hayward, and Paul Beard - and also with Albert Sammons with whom he took some lessons. The booklet notes are in error here in implying that Sammons taught at the Academy: he taught at the Royal College, and then only later on. Forbes went to Czechoslovakia to study with the great pedagogue äevcŪk but then switched to the viola, studying with Raymond Jeremy, a proponent of the music of Elgar and Bax amongst many others.
 
Forbes was a member of Beechamís LPO and also the Stratton Quartet. If youíve ever wondered which performers made those recordings of the Piano Quintet and Quartet to which Elgar listened on his death bed, it was the Stratton (in 1944 it became the Aeolian). Subsequently Forbes joined the LSO and then the Boyd Neel orchestra, and he was an eminent chamber player. He was also a considerable editor and arranger of music. This disc pays him due homage.
 
It begins with an arrangement in E minor by Forbes and his good friend Alan Richardson, of Nardiniís Concerto in G. Those expecting a Ďstand and deliverí baroque transcription will be in for a small shock as the piano part doesnít often sound terribly baroque at all, being spiced up with some lush harmonies. A few surprising twists and turns shadow the Concerto, not least in the restless slow movement. Robin Orr was a fellow Scot and exact contemporary of Forbes. His Sonata is cogently and tautly argued, a touch Hindemith-like in places, quietly moving in the Elegy second movement, alternately quizzical and vigorous in the finale.
 
Alan Richardson, born in Edinburgh, was a colleague, and friend and a professor at the Royal Academy. His Sonata was premiered in 1949 and is a genial, voluble work with a brief Lento introduction and successively, a chattering Allegro of a scherzo, a rather elusive Lento and a confident finale that ends with a satisfying scrunch.
 
William Alwynís cheeky little Sonatina No.2 is an airy delight with a supple folk-like finale; the whole thing is over in eight and a half minutes. Sebastian Forbes, the violistís son, contributes a very clever test-piece written for the Watson Forbes Centenary Viola Competition. I particularly admire its fusing of technical demands and narrative colour. The three small pieces that end the disc are Richardsonís charming Sussex Lullaby, Forbesí arrangement of Bachís Sinfonia and a Forbes-Richardson arrangement of Rameauís Tambourin. Interestingly, so far as I know, this is the only piece in the recital that Watson Forbes recorded. His 10-inch red Decca included more Rameau movements. He and Denise Lassimonne zipped through it in under a minute, whereas Martin Outram and Julian Rolton take half a minute longer. This relaxation of tempo is good in that it brings out the piano harmonies, but a zestier speed doesnít half sound fun.
 
Perhaps this is an opportune time to plead for some of Forbesí recordings to be transferred to CD. Iím thinking of the Bax Sonata with Maria Korchinska in 1940 Ė he followed his old teacher Raymond Jeremy in recording it with her. Then thereís Blissís Sonata and Walthewís Mosaics and Sonata in D, all with Myers Foggin and all on Decca 78s from 1938. Iíd also very much like to have his Mozart Duos with Frederick Grinke transferred, along with the Schubert Arpeggione Sonata with Foggin. There are many excellent things on Decca from that time still languishing in shellac limbo.
 
Meanwhile, back to the matter in hand. Outram is the esteemed violist of the Maggini Quartet, great ambassadors for British chamber music. Heís also a well known soloist. Rolton is his duo colleague, and he too, as a member of the Chagall Trio, has done very fine things on disc and in recital. Together they are outstandingly successful in this repertoire, catching its moods and colours with great charm and sensitivity. An excellent booklet note and well judged recording balance helps no end. This is a really worthwhile salute to a splendid musician.
 
Jonathan Woolf
 
A really worthwhile salute to a splendid musician.