Home is Where …
Douglas LILBURN (1915-2001)
Salutes to Seven Poets (1952) (arr. viola by Donald Maurice, 2010) [25:00]
George ENESCU (1881-1955)
Violin Sonata No.3 (1926) (arr. viola by Donald Maurice) [23:18]
Boris PIGOVAT (b.1953)
Viola Sonata (2012) [25:59]
Donald Maurice (viola)
Richard Mapp (piano)
No recording details
ATOLL ACD413 [74:26]

Perhaps I am unusually, indeed simple-mindedly optimistic but I don’t find Douglas Lilburn’s Salutes to Seven Poets quite as sombre and melancholic as the booklet notes suggest. Certainly there are introspective elements at work, and rightly so given the subject matter. The poets are not all very well-known but they do include Allen Curnow. The arrangement of the violin original for viola should lend a darker current to the music-making, but I am still not cast into sombre resignation. Time and again one hear vestiges of Lilburn’s studies with Vaughan Williams in London - the folkloric hints, the rhythmic vitality, and the wit. There are also quietly jazzy passages. The tribute to Curnow has rich piano chording underpinning the viola’s reflective melody line and it is somewhat melancholy, yes, but surely not austere. The lighter textures for the salute to Michael K. Joseph have hints of Bartók. There’s also what sounds to me like Americana, as well as deft pizzicati and fresh air warmth, which somewhat darkens later, in the tribute to James K. Baxter. The movement named for R.A.K. Mason is elegiac, but the Epilogue offers a worthy summation of a set that works well, with fine contrasts, and with sufficient stylistic licence to stimulate but not enough to allow the music to fragment.

Boris Pigovat, born in Odessa, and now living in Israel, has a sheaf of compositions to his name, and Requiem, ‘The Holocaust’ is probably the best-known (Atoll ACD114). He wrote his Viola Sonata in 2012 for the performer here, the excellent Donald Maurice who played the viola solo role in Requiem in Germany and New Zealand. Some may recall that he is violist of the Dominion Quartet, the group that has recorded Alfred Hill’s string quartets for Naxos. Pigovat’s sonata is in three movements, successively calm, dramatic (‘con ira’), and mysterious. The plaintive, rather beautiful viola line in the first of these movements has rich lyricism and, to me, a degree of almost filmic warmth. The second, as anticipated, offers a real contrast, in 15 small sections. Driving, and with an occasionally baroque-tinged toccata, the piano writing is percussively urgent. Reminiscences of Bach are here, but well submerged. The finale’s fresh lyricism and slow fade end a most welcome addition to the repertory. Let’s hope it’s taken up.

In a disc that explores ideas of cultural identity it’s diverting to hear Enescu’s Violin Sonata No.3 arranged for viola in Maurice’s arrangement. The piano part is unaltered but Maurice has access to deeper sonorities, and a C string, unavailable to violinists. He and Richard Mapp manage to convey its local colour, and it’s a sensitively shaped and conveyed performance.

This enjoyable, well recorded and annotated disc is somewhat different inasmuch as the transcriptions mean that only the Pigovat was originally conceived for the viola. That’s often been the lot of violists and that shouldn’t put you off.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Steve Arloff
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