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The Stanford Legacy
Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924)
Clarinet Sonata Op.129 (1911, arr. viola by Henry Waldo Warner, 1919) [19:14]
Rebecca CLARKE (1886-1979)
Viola Sonata (1919) [23:00]
John IRELAND (1879-1962)
Violin Sonata No.1 (1908-09, rev. 1917/1944, arr. viola by Martin Outram) [26:01]
Martin Outram (viola)
Julian Rolton (piano)
rec. July 2015, Wyastone Hall, Monmouth
NIMBUS NI6334 [68:15]

Stanford’s legacy here is both compositional and pedagogic. His own Clarinet Sonata, Op.129 is performed in the arrangement for viola by Henry Waldo Warner, whilst his students Rebecca Clarke and John Ireland are also represented. Clarke’s Viola Sonata is now a repertory piece but Ireland’s Violin Sonata No.1 is heard in a recent arrangement for his own instrument by the violist Martin Outram. Two arrangements thus surround the Clarke’s Sonata which, in one of those quirks of reviewing fate, I’ve very recently listened to in its authentic arrangement for Cello. The head spins with all these alternative instrumentation choices.

Stanford approved of Waldo Warner’s arrangement. Warner (1874-1945) was the violist of the London String Quartet succeeded (very briefly indeed) by the instrumentalist-composer Philip Sainton and then by William Primrose. Warner was also a composer, a prize-winning Cobbett one no less, and his Stanford arrangement was published in 1919. Outram plays it with athletic incision and his taut tempi ensure that the music never sags. He’s helped by Julian Rolton’s strong-hewn pianism, not least in the beautiful Caoine second movement, where the element of keening implicit is a good fit for the viola’s melancholic tone. Outram’s phrasing in the finale’s very beautiful central panel, so full of lyric beauty, is admirable.

Lionel Tertis arranged both Ireland’s Violin Sonata No.2 and the Cello Sonata – both with the composer’s imprimatur - so Outram’s work enters exalted waters. The Outram-Rolton duo reprises its liking for fastish tempi in this reading as if willing the slower-to sound viola ever onward in competition with its violin sister. Even allowing for Ireland’s own repeated strictures about letting each chord have its due weight, there is a great difference between Ireland’s own recording of the Sonata with violinist Frederick Grinke – measured but not exactly slow – and Outram and Rolton’s decidedly bullish sense of direction. I rather like their approach, Outram cleaving to the alto-ish side of things tonally rather than a burnished expressive Tertis-like romanticism. Their stylish urgency never really sounds breathless in the first two movements. In the finale they can’t quite match violin counterparts who are able to articulate that much faster. Nevertheless, this is a refreshingly direct reading in a première recording.

Outram catches very well the folkloric elements of Rebecca Clarke’s sonata. Phrasing here is natural and free, dynamic gradients well established and the ruminative paragraphs are convincing. The central quick movement has plenty of accustomed Outram vitality and the finale finds the music’s movement from almost threnodic to drivingly martial is manoeuvred perceptively by both musicians.

This is an imaginatively conceived programme. I’ve not come across Warner’s arrangement on disc before and the Ireland is clearly a real novelty. Clarke’s Sonata has probably not received a much better recording than that by Tabea Zimmermann and Kirill Gerstein on Myrios Classics (MYR004 - review). But, in a good, unspotlit acoustic, and in their leaner way, the Outram-Rolton duo proves a highly effective ambassador for all this music.

Jonathan Woolf



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