Notes and Editorial Reviews
ENGLISH VIOLA SONATAS
Martin Outram (va); Julian Rolton (pn)
NAXOS 8.572208 (72:04)
The last Naxos viola release I reviewed contained the Lionel Tertis transcription of the Delius Third Violin Sonata (
was a great recording, and so is this one. You can check there for some information on Lionel Tertis, perhaps the proto-violist of his time, and one of the first to achieve international fame. On this disc we have a transcription of the Cello Sonata, and it is in every way as effective as the previous issue; Tertis was very good at this sort of thing, having a remarkably good ear for tonality and register, and how to make a foreign instrument sound good in another guise. We have the composer’s imprimatur on this arrangement as well since he gave the premiere performance with Tertis. It is a likeable work, typically Delius, and if you like his music you will like this.
Gordon Jacob wrote much music in many guises, always well crafted and with a discernable structural logic. Particularly memorable in this piece is the thematic equivalent of a child sticking his tongue out at you and saying “naa-naa.” While a little startling and even obnoxious at first hearing, the way Jacob integrates it into a fully fledged sonata form is curiously involving—you actually look forward to the many repetitions of the theme after the first exposure. The rest of the piece is lovely, a fine Adagio that leads to a quickening of the pace as the last two movements of the sonata stand for only four minutes total!
Malcolm Arnold, most famous for his Oscar award-winning score to
Bridge on the River Kwai
, is another composer who, like Jacob, found himself at home in a variety of musical settings. His Viola Sonata is in three movements instead of the four that Jacob espouses, very moody and perhaps more descriptive in a “cinematic” way, particularly in the middle movement, which is unhurried yet full of subtle allusions to an undercurrent of threat from an unknown source. Lennox Berkley’s sonata is also in three movements, yet closer to 20 minutes in length (the previous two are around 12 each) and is characterized by the composer’s typically cerebral approach to all things structural. The opening sonata-form movement reflects this integrity of construction, Berkley’s art being one of absolute music generally devoid of programmatic suggestions, and rigorously attached to the notion of linear development, concise, clear and attenuated towards his always well-considered thematic subjects.
This is as good an introduction to English chamber music as I can think of, viola considerations aside, which makes it a gold mine for those so inclined. While I have heard richer tonal sound than that of Martin Outram, who seems to favor a more muscular approach to the instrument, this is not a fault, perhaps only reflective of his time merging his own unique talents with the other players of the Maggini Quartet. Julian Rolton complements him at every turn, assisted by the open and gracious sound of the Wyastone Concert Hall in Wales. Enthusiastically recommended.
FANFARE: Steven E. Ritter
One of the glories of the invention of the CD is the expansion of recorded repertoire. Here is an example of that - you would never have had such a recital recorded in the days of the, I must say, much missed, vinyl LP. Gordon Jacob has done particularly well with the advent of CD, and quite right too, for here is a musician who could communicate with players and audiences, young people and amateurs alike, and create music for all and every event and combination of instruments. From his arrangements for Tommy Handley’s ITMA radio show to two splendid
Symphonies (fortunately now available on Lyrita SRCD 315) not to mention concertos, choral works, chamber music, a valuable addition to the military band repertoire, there’s about 700 works for us to investigate. I hope that someone, after hearing this very enjoyable
Sonata will give us the two
Viola Concertos - number 1, in particular, is a superb work. By the way, Jacob’s music didn’t suit everyone, “Foul music by Gordon Jacob just over ...” wrote George Lyttleton to Rupert Hart-Davis (or vice versa), but you cannot please everyone all the time. This
Sonata isn’t foul; it’s very fair, a lovely piece, full of Jacob’s late-romanticism and worthy of a place on any concert platform.
We’ve been given some of Lionel Tertis’s transcriptions of other works over the years - Elgar’s
Cello Concerto (Conifer CDCF 171) and Delius’s
Violin Sonata (Naxos 8.572407) amongst them - and this version of Ireland’s marvellous
Cello Sonata sounds very well, if, perhaps, one misses the plangent voice of yearning which only the cello can bring to some of the higher passages.
Sonata is an early work, and it’s quite astringent in places, but, ever the melodist, there are tunes aplenty. In three movements - the first two have strangely enigmatic endings - the work is brought to an ebullient conclusion with a
Presto feroce. The viola may not seem to be the kind of instrument whose music would invoke the designation
feroce, but Arnold achieves it, without losing any of the viola’s gentlemanliness!
Outram’s own transcription of the Delius
Cello Sonata is more successful than Tertis’s of the Ireland for the simple reason that Delius’s work is more inward-looking. Berkeley’s
Sonata is a very serious piece with a deeply searching slow movement. This is framed by a subdued, and thoughtful, first movement and a fast and energetic finale.
What a fabulous disk! English music at its best in performances of the highest order. This isn’t for a minority audience - viola players only - this is essential listening for everyone with an interest in music. With very good performances and recording this is another success for Naxos and a valuable addition to its growing catalogue of English music.
-- Bob Briggs, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Sonata for Viola and Piano by Gordon Jacob
Martin Outram (Viola),
Julian Rolton (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Sonata for Cello and Piano by Frederick Delius
Martin Outram (Viola),
Julian Rolton (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1916; France
Notes: Arranged: Martin Outram
Viola Sonata No. 2: I. Allegro moderato
Viola Sonata No. 2: II. Adagio
Viola Sonata No. 2: III. Allegretto grazioso
Viola Sonata No. 2: IV. Allegro ma non troppo
Cello Sonata (arr. L. Tertis for viola and piano): I. Moderato e sostenuto
Cello Sonata (arr. L. Tertis for viola and piano): II. Poco largamente
Cello Sonata (arr. L. Tertis for viola and piano): III. Con moto e marcato
Viola Sonata, Op. 17: I. Andante
Viola Sonata, Op. 17: II. Allegretto grazioso
Viola Sonata, Op. 17: III. Presto feroce
Cello Sonata (arr. M. Outram for viola and piano)
Viola Sonata in D minor, Op. 22: I. Allegro ma non troppo
Viola Sonata in D minor, Op. 22: II. Adagio
Viola Sonata in D minor, Op. 22: III. Allegro
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