Warp & Weft
Rebecca CLARKE (1886-1979)
Suite for Two Violins and Piano (1909) [18:12]
Paul PATTERSON (b. 1947)
Allusions Trio for Two Violins and Piano (2016) [17:48]
Gordon JACOB (1895-1984)
Four Bagatelles for Two Violins (1961) [5:30]
Ernest John MOERAN (1894-1950)
Sonata for Two Violins (1930) [15:58]
Alan RAWSTHORNE (1905-1971)
Theme and Variations for Two Violins (1937) [16:15]
Midori Komachi (violin)
Sophie Rosa (violin)
Simon Callaghan (piano)
rec. 2016, Church of St John the Evangelist, Oxford
EM RECORDS EMRCD043 [73:46]
This is a splendid disc of rarely heard or recorded English music for two violins, and one that any self respecting anglophile will not want to be without.
The Suite by Rebecca Clarke, which had been deemed to be lost, was only discovered in 2000 when her nephew was going through some legal and medical documents pertinent to his aunt’s estate and published in 2012. Despite this, we have here the work’s second outing on disc, the other being a very fine recording on Dutton Epoch (CDLX 7132), where it is described as Three Movements for Two Violins and Piano, a reference to the fact that the final movement was left as an incomplete sketch. Both recordings have chosen to record only the first three movements. An early work, it is full of life and vibrancy, especially the second movement, Danse Bizarre, which gained Clarke a scholarship during her final year at the Royal College of Music. This is one of her first works to display her own mature chamber music style, a genre she would excel in.
The following work by Paul Patterson took its impetus from his Double Violin Concerto and was composed especially for the performers on this disc. The ‘Allusions’ are three operatic extracts. The first movement is based on the character of Falstaff in Verdi’s opera, the second is based on Don Giovanni’s meeting with the Commendatore, while the third quotes directly from the Marriage of Figaro. Patterson works these themes well and builds upon them to produce a most interesting and engaging piece.
The Four (short) Bagatelles for Two Violins by Gordon Jacob are, for me, too short. There is plenty of good material here and I only wish he had developed it a bit more. I do think that Jacob is unduly neglected, what music I have by him displays his ability to produce beautiful music, and these short Bagatelles are no different. They were written as a Christmas present for a friend, and Jacob explores the possible soundworld of the two violins.
The best known of the composers present on this disc is E J Moeran, one of the mainstays of English music in the first half of the twentieth century. That being said, this work is new to me and, while it shows the folksong style that he and his good friend and drinking partner were famous for, it does have a slightly more modern edge to it. Its final movement, Passacaglia, is a wonderful way to end the Sonata.
The final work on this disc is probably the best known. This is the third recording of the Theme and Variations for Two Violins by Alan Rawsthorne that I have, the others being an old Redcliffe Recordings disc (RR 006), and the Naxos recording (8.570136), and I know that there is at least one more recording of it. This was the work that first brought Rawsthorne to the world stage and this despite his approach being less than conventional. This is a wonderful piece and one which has long been a favourite of mine.
The performances by Midori Komachi and Sophie Rosa are excellent throughout. They really get to the heart of this wonderful music, especially in the works without piano, where their interplay is terrific. That said, Simon Callaghan is not just a supporting artist, he has a significant role to play in the Clarke and Patterson and he acquits himself well. These are first rate performances that are helped by the recorded sound and the excellent booklet notes, many of were written by Midori Komachi herself. In short, I can only reiterate my opening statement, but qualify it by saying that this disc is not just for lovers of English music but for all who love twentieth century string chamber music.
Previous review: Jonathan Woolf