Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Sonata for Violin and Piano (1954) [29:00]
Gustav HOLST (1874-1934)
Five Pieces for violin and piano: Lied ohne worte* [4:36]; Maya* [2:14]; Greeting* [3:03]; A Spring Song* [3:48]; Valse-ťtude [2:40]
Henry WALFORD DAVIES (1869-1941)
Sonata for Violin and Piano in E-flat major* (1893-95) [18:03]
Rupert Marshall-Luck (violin); Matthew Rickard (piano)
rec. 13-14 April 2012, Wyastone Concert Halls, Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, Wales
*World premiŤre recordings
EM RECORDS EMR CD006 [63:23]
 
This is another of an increasingly valuable series devoted to British music for violin and piano and once more it features Rupert Marshall-Luck and Mathew Rickard. Marshall-Luck used to be just plain Luck before his marriage, so cross-reference can be made to his previous incarnation and reviews thereof.
 
Once more, foraging has led to discoveries and world premiere recordings in the case of Walford Daviesís E flat major sonata and four of the five pieces for violin by Gustav Holst.
 
Itís best to start with the meaty Walford Davies sonata, completed in 1895. If some of the key relations hearken back to Schubert as Marshall-Luck suggests, surely the syntax is more Brahmsian. This is especially true in the musing transitions and the control of sectional writing as well as in those moments of corresponding slashing dynamism. There are certainly a few correspondences with Elgarís later chamber music in this respect. The slow movement is in variation form, lyrical, persuasive though not always especially melodically distinctive. The finale opens with a slow transition, very cleverly balancing and yet moving on from the Largo. The finale proper is typically satisfying, cumulatively engaging though again a little short of genuinely innovative wattage.
 
The Holst pieces are charming salon morceaux, all written between 1902 and 1904. Thereís a delightful Song without Words and a suitably verdant Spring Song that sounds as fresh as the proverbial daisy. The only one of the five ever to have been recorded before is the Valse-…tude; indeed itís the only one known to have been publicly performed during Holstís lifetime as well. Marshall-Luck knows that it was dedicated to, and recorded by, the eminent violinist Marie Hall with pianist Marguerite Tilleard, in 1924. This is one of Hallís trickier discs to find. I rather wish I had it, to compare and contrast but I doubt she would have played it much better than Marshall-Luck.
 
A similar state of affairs assails me in the case of Vaughan Williamsís A minor Sonata. Its dedicatee Frederick Grinke recorded it on Decca LP with Michael Mullinar Ė another disc thatís escaped me Ė though Menuhinís much later 1978 LP recording with his sister Hephzibah has always been much better known. Itís still available, not least in a vast EMI box dedicated to the violinist. Marshall-Luck and Rickard take just a bit more time than the Menuhins in this work. They find plenty of freedom in the fantasia shaping of the music, bringing requisite tautness to the scherzo. They also explore the variations in the finale with surety and a good sense of direction. The seraphic writing that VW largely keeps back in reserve is thus the more plangent and expressive when it appears. Its hard won victory is garnished via folkloric dance, and a moment or two of archaism, before reminiscences of The Lark Ascending bring the work, successfully, to a close. 
 
The recording quality is very Ďpresentí but not unattractively so. The performances are committed and watertight of ensemble, and the notes are first class.
 
Jonathan Woolf
 
Committed and watertight performances.