The Bridge Duo (violist, Matthew Jones and pianist, Michael Hampton)
present York Bowen's glorious first and second Viola Sonatas and the
on this Naxos disc.
I have to confess at once that I was rather disappointed with the
performances given, as well as with the recording itself. Taking the latter
point first, we immediately find percussive sounds coming from the viola,
due to microphones being placed too close; while the performances themselves
fail to convince me that the performers are entirely committed to the music
and to conveying it fully, in all its wonderful nuances, to the listener.
For example, a trill should be "the exaltation of a note" - as Pablo Casals
said - there must be a reason for the articulations, dynamics and direction
of a phrase - the performer needs to look behind the note. Matthew Jones'
playing doesn't make me believe that he has gone beyond the note on the page
in this way. He gives no sense of architecture, and his tone-quality leaves
something to be desired - there is often excessive bow-pressure for the
soundprint, resulting in extraneous noises as the wood of the stick makes
contact with the hair. We also need more narrative - a change of character
brought about by the way in which the violist plays, yet this is lacking.
For example, Jones employs exactly the same vibrato for the second movement
of the First Sonata as for the first movement. My other criticism is that
there is too little sense of radiance or exuberance - the performances are
all very earthbound. Listen, for instance, to the rather disappointing
ending of the first movement of the First Sonata - there is simply not
enough effervescence here.
The performances do pick up a little, however, and the third movement of
the F major Sonata (the Second) is much better; far more playful. As a
result it actually comes across as fun and enjoyable. I'm afraid that I also
felt that the works were rather let down by Jones's accompanist, Michael
Hampton, who thumps at the piano too much and also seems to fail to relish
and communicate the astonishing beauty of these works.
Anyone and everyone should
hear these pieces, but I would propose
instead the performances given on the Dutton Vocalion
disc by James Boyd and Bengt
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