Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
Sonata for Viola and Piano (arr. Outram) [20:58]
There is a Willow grows aslant a brook (arr. Britten) [8.05]
Allegro Appassionato [2.29]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Portrait No. 2 “EBB” (arr. Outram) [3.55]
Lachrymae Reflections on a song of Dowland [13.25]
Martin Outram (viola), Julian Rolton (piano)
rec. Wyastone Concert Hall, 16-18 November 2012. DDD
NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI 6253 [67.29]
This disc presents works for viola and piano by Benjamin Britten and by his teacher Frank Bridge – both excellent violists themselves. The disc opens with Bridge’s Cello Sonata, here arranged by Outram for viola. Perhaps Outram felt that Bridge would not have minded the licence taken in arranging his Sonata for a different instrument, given that Bridge himself arranged the Adagio Lamentoso from Hurlstone’s Sonata for Cello and Piano for viola. I prefer the sound of the viola to that of the cello, but, being something of purist, am not convinced that the worthy desire to play a particular work written for a different instrument on one’s own instrument justifies the liberty of arrangement. It would also be interesting to know further details of what was changed during the arrangement, and whether the piano part has also been arranged to take account of the different registration, as I felt that the viola occasionally struggled to cut through the texture of the piano in this version. Nevertheless, this is undoubtedly a lovely work, and well-played by Outram and Rolton.
It is followed by the short work Allegretto, which had been left unfinished by Bridge and was completed by Paul Hindmarsh. Three works by Britten come next – the first two are very introspective and early pieces, dating from 1930, which demonstrate Britten’s already prodigious talent. Of these, Portrait no.2 ‘EBB’ is a self-portrait of the composer and has here been arranged by Outram – but the notes omit the rather crucial information of what the original instrumentation was (solo viola and strings). These less familiar works are followed by the much-loved Lachrymae: Reflections on a song of Dowland. Outram and Rolton’s is not perhaps the most convincing performance that I have ever heard, but it nevertheless reminds one of what a fabulous work this is, and it is good to have it on this disc.
Britten’s arrangement of There is a Willow grows aslant a brook works extremely well in its placing here directly after Lachrymae - excellent programming. There is a nice lightness of touch and some lovely gossamer textures especially in the piano, while the pizzicato in the viola works well. Two more short works by Bridge follow - Pensiero and Allegro Appassionato - the latter in particular being something of a gem.
The disc concludes with another early work by Britten: Elegy is a sombre, dark and rather desolate – if nevertheless very impressive – end to the disc.
On the whole, this is an enjoyable disc, with some gorgeous pieces and sound playing – although Outram is not always completely steady on long held high notes, and I did rather find the too-audible sniffing intrusive.
Previous reviews: Dominy Clements (Recording of the Month) and Jonathan Woolf
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