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British Violin Sonatas - Volume 2
Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
Violin Sonata in E-flat Major H. 39 (1904) [15:29]
John IRELAND (1879-1962)
Violin Sonata No. 1 in D Minor (1908-09) [27:35]
Sir Arthur BLISS (1891-1975)
Violin Sonata F (1915) [11:31]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Two Pieces: Romance [4:44]; Pastorale [3:50]
William LLOYD WEBBER (1914-1982)
The Gardens at Eastwell - A Late Summer Impression
Tasmin Little (violin)
Piers Lane (piano)
rec. Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, England, 21-23 September 2015
CHANDOS CHAN10899 [66:05]

I am happy to say that I have now had the pleasure of seeing Tasmin Little perform live on a few occasions. The insight and artistry she brings to her continued championing of British music is greatly appreciated and is to be applauded. This has been carried over into her sheaf of fine recordings many containing less popular British works, of which I now have a number. These include volume one from Chandos (CHAN 10770) in what I hope will be an expanding series.

This disc, unlike the first has two pieces which are new to me, the first being the early Frank Bridge Sonata, that Paul Hindmarsh edited in 1996, and in the case of the second movement, completed for performance. This work dates from 1904, nearly thirty years earlier than his sole completed violin sonata. Anyone who knows the chamber music of Bridge, and in particular his string quartets, will know how diverse it can be, from romanticism to quite modernist. This early Sonata came after a period of study with Stanford, whose influence can be clearly heard in what is a two movement work. The first movement especially, can be seen to have Brahms at its heart, a composer Stanford championed. It is a work rooted in the Romantic movement. Hindmarsh’s completion is done in a sympathetic way that only highlights Bridge’s original music; a welcome addition to the British violin sonata repertoire.

The second work on the disc is something different, one of my ‘desert island disc’ works, the Sonata No. 1 by John Ireland. Originally composed in 1908-09, this went through revision at first in 1917 until the final version emerged in 1944. It has always been one of my favourite pieces of English chamber music. I first got to know it through the excellent Lyrita LP recording by Yfrah Neaman and Eric Parkin, now on a 3 CD set of the composer's chamber music (SRCD.2271), a recording which for me remains the benchmark. Here Little offers the quickest version I know, some three minutes faster than the competitors. This is mainly due to the more athletic tempo deployed in the expansive first movement. Surprisingly this in no way detracts from the music, rather the more driven performance gives it the edge over that by Mordkovitch and Brown on Chandos (CHAN 9377/8) and Gould and Frith on Naxos (8.572497). It is a serious contender even if it does not quite manage to take the top spot from Neaman.

The Sonata by Arthur Bliss dates from the first couple of years of the First World War. It is another of those works that was edited at a much later date, for performance, this time by Rupert Marshall-Luck. He it was who recorded it for EM Records (EMR CD001). Little’s performance is slightly slower than Marshall-Luck’s over this single movement work, only by some 30 seconds. Her recording does tend to have more gravitas and a greater presence.

This is followed by the charming Two Pieces by Ralph Vaughan Williams. These pieces, a Romance and a Pastorale, first came to my attention through the award-winning recording by the Nash Ensemble on Hyperion CDA67381/2. Here they are given an equally beautiful performance by Little.

The final piece is The Gardens at Eastwell by William Lloyd Webber. This miniature comes from the composer's latter years. It follows on well from the Vaughan Williams pieces. Its lilting pastoral tune makes it the perfect piece with which to end the disc.

Throughout, Tasmin Little and Piers Lane are on top form proving themselves once again excellent advocates of this wonderful music. They are captured in a pleasing and sympathetic acoustic. This, with the informative booklet notes, makes this new recording a real winner. I hope that this new series from Chandos continues to go from strength to strength and that Ireland’s Second Sonata will feature on a future release.

Stuart Sillitoe



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