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) St 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]
 
Iím sure that Rameau, Bach et al would be tickled pink to be included in a disc called The Scottish Viola but thatís a side issue. The market isnít exactly awash with viola recitals so this one should be welcomed with open arms and Nimbus have to be congratulated. Watson Forbes (1909-1997) studied with Paul Beard, Albert Sammons and Lionel Tertis in London and played under Beecham in the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Later in his career he was a member of the LSO. Over and above his orchestral work, Forbes was also a highly regarded performer of chamber music. His skills as an arranger are also on show in this recital Ė the Nardini, Rameau and Bach works are presented here in his own arrangements.
 
Martin Outram, a member of the Maggini String Quartet, is a superb viola player, ably supported by Julian Rolton on piano. Both musicians are great ambassadors of British music and they form a formidable partnership.
 
The Nardini concerto, arranged by Forbes and Alan Richardson, is an adaptation rather than a literal transcription. It works rather well and I personally like the added romanticism. Maybe this is not for purists but thatís their choice. As a stand-alone piece itís well worth hearing.
 
The Scottish composer Robin Orr wrote one of my favourite British orchestral works - the Symphony in One Movement - so itís good to hear his viola sonata. The work teems with good ideas, especially in the haunting second movement and the lively, driven scherzo with its pizzicato effects. The Richardson sonata is very much in the same vein, structurally impressive, melodic - rather than tuneful - and lyrical. There is also some stupendous virtuoso playing to be heard from both viola and piano in the mercurial Molto vivace. Splendid stuff. Richardsonís Sussex Lullaby is in the tradition of British light music and itís a pleasant piece of pastoral writing.
 
Sebastian Forbes - son of Watson - wrote his St Andrews Solo as a test piece for the Watson Forbes Centenary Viola Competition, held in Edinburgh in 2009. Like many such it sounds fiendishly difficult to play and it receives a fine performance. As a piece of music itís not especially memorable. The recital is completed with William Alwynís short Sonata No.2, full of good tunes and high spirits and the Rameau Tambourin - a sort of viola equivalent to the flute solo in J.S. Bachís Badinerie. Then finally we come to the Bach Sinfonia. Marvellous music that really demonstrates the lyrical beauty of Martin Outramís playing.
 
This is the third Nimbus release Iíve heard in the last couple of months and the recording quality on all three has been of a consistently high standard. The viola and piano are perfectly balanced in a clear acoustic. There is great presence and everything sounds perfectly natural. Not all of the music is of the highest standard but the sad fact is that the viola hasnít exactly been high up in the pecking order for many of the great composers. We should be grateful for what is on offer here. Itís a very enjoyable CD.
 
John Whitmore
 
A fine viola and piano duo captured in natural sound.