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Elgar, Walton: Sonatas For Violin & Piano / Mcaslan, Blakely

Release Date: 05/23/2006 
Label:  Resonance Catalog #: 3060   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Sir Edward ElgarSir William Walton
Performer:  Lorraine MacAslanJohn Blakely
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Lorraine McAslan’s recording of Elgar’s and Walton’s Violin Sonatas first appeared in the mid 1980s. In these works, neither of which seems in the least diminutive—in length or conception—McAslan produced a stronger than sweeter sound on a 1744 Carlo Bergonzi. That grittiness suits what Malcolm Walker describes in his booklet notes as the Elgar Sonata’s “nervous” first movement. She opens with great fervor, recalling the broad gestures of a concerto; but she reduces the scale in the slow movement’s hushed intimacy, as well as in the finale’s broader passages and in its grand rhetorical conclusion. Walker mentions the similarity of the solo writing in Walton’s Sonata to that in his Concerto; and, in fact, the Sonata itself has been Read more orchestrated, performed, and recorded in a concerto-like version. The designations of the opening movements of both works include the qualifier tranquillo—although the less violent Sonata movement comes closer to embodying the relaxation that term suggests. Walton, not writing for Heifetz but rather for Menuhin, suppressed whatever tendency he may have had to virtuosic fireworks in this movement, although it contains thorny passages, punctuating many others of restrained lyricism or in lush double stops like the Concerto’s. Some of the thorns lie embedded in gnomic harmonies, and McAslan seems attuned to these, too. As in Elgar’s Sonata, she ranges, in this more somber work, from veiled suggestivity, through throaty lyricism on the lower strings, to almost defiant dissonance in the finale’s march-like variation.

Throughout, John Blakely provides more than simply sonorous orchestral-like support. The engineers have captured the performers’ dynamic and timbral ranges, but there’s such a wide gulf between the boldest statements and the more reticent ones that the latter seem to need a boost.

Nigel Kennedy had a way with Elgar, as his two recordings of the Concerto proved, and his program of the Sonata with shorter works originally appeared on CD as Chandos 8380—and remains available. John D. Wiser, reviewing it in 9:1, judged Kennedy no Kreisler or Sammons, but found in his playing more than a hint of the expressivity with which those artists put across this repertoire. Note the urgency of Kennedy’s opening volley or his tenderness in the second theme (Peter Pettinger shared Kennedy’s sensibility in this work). More recently, another young British violinist has tackled the Elgar Sonata—and Walton’s, too—with connatural authority, although he may lack Kennedy’s nostalgic sense of Elgar’s œuvre: Daniel Hope, on Nimbus 5666; and his lyricism in Walton has a strong, perhaps ironic, pungency missing from McAlsan’s. Although each of the two works may be substantial, the two allow time for almost a half hour of other works (Hope included Finzi’s Elegy), perhaps by the two composers represented. Resonance’s comparative niggardliness would certainly influence my decision to add the recording to my collection, even if the performances rose to a higher level of expressiveness than these do. Recommended, therefore, principally to McAslan’s followers and to those interested in alternative performances of this repertoire.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

1. Sonata for Violin and Piano in E minor, Op. 82 by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Lorraine MacAslan (Violin), John Blakely (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1918; England 
2. Sonata for Violin and Piano by Sir William Walton
Performer:  Lorraine MacAslan (Violin), John Blakely (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949; England 

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