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British Rhapsody: Music For Viola And Piano

Coates / Su Zhen / Lepper
Release Date: 01/14/2014 
Label:  Stone Records   Catalog #: 8035   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Eric CoatesAlan RichardsonFrederick DeliusRhian Samuel,   ... 
Performer:  Simon LepperSu Zhen
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 57 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BRITISH RHAPSODY Su Zhen (va); Simon Lepper (pn) STONE 20371 (55:68)

COATES First Meeting. RICHARDSON Rhapsody. DELIUS Violin Sonata No. 2. SAMUEL Blythswood. BOWEN Phantasy

Violist Su Zhen and Read more pianist Simon Lepper met as graduate students at the Royal Academy of Music in 1996. She had just come from China, he from nearby Cambridge. Eric Coates’s First Meeting brings back memories of their own introduction. Their professors suggested that they play some British music and they soon became fascinated with it. Eric Coates (1886–1957) was principal violist for the Queen’s Hall Orchestra for seven years, until he was fired for frequently sending substitutes to play for him while he conducted elsewhere. After that, he laid his viola aside to concentrate on conducting and composition. His idiomatic viola music sounds more 19th century than 20th because it is thoroughly Romantic and melodic. Scottish pianist and composer Alan Richardson (1904–1978) accompanied violinist Carl Flesch and violist Watson Forbes at various times. The music of the 1977 Rhapsody for Viola and Piano, his last work for these instruments, is written in a charmingly robust melodic style in which the viola soars majestically over the piano as they dialogue together. Frederick Delius (1862–1934) is a much better known composer than either Coates or Richardson, but his music is still under-recorded. His Violin Sonata No. 2 dates from 1923 when Europe was still struggling with the aftermath of World War I while trying to reassert itself with the artistry of the 1920s. Although Delius, suffering from syphilis, was blind and paralyzed, he wrote this confident, lyrical work, which only occasionally shows moments of sadness. Zhen and Lepper play it magnificently on piano and viola, but if you want to hear it as originally written, there is a version by Tasmin Little and Piers Lane on a Sony disc from 2009.

Welsh composer Rhian Samuel was born in 1944. She has taught in both Britain and the United States and is at the forefront of issues concerning gender and music. She wrote Blythswood in 1996 when she was in a Scottish village that faces the mountains of Skye. She says that each movement of her piece evokes the idea of a distant view of land or sea. “Tangled Webs” are contrapuntal sections that resolve into a fragmented viola solo. “Gannetts Diving” describes the birds fluttering wings in the spray of the salt water. “To Become the Song” is a lament by the viola accompanied by steady chords from the piano. Edwin York Bowen (1884–1961) was an English composer whose career spanned more than 50 years. He played organ, viola, and horn as well as piano. His Romantic and easily accessible Phantasy for Viola and Piano, op. 54, is replete with rich harmonic language. The recording of his complete works for viola and piano played by Laurence Power and Simon Crawford Phillips on a Hyperion disc includes the Phantasy, but the sound is not as crystal clear as the sound on the Stone disc. Zhen and Lepper play all the selections with sensitivity and the ultimate in technical prowess. I enjoyed this foray into British music and think listeners will like it too.

FANFARE: Maria Nockin
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Works on This Recording

First Meeting by Eric Coates
Performer:  Simon Lepper (Piano), Su Zhen (Viola)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Venue:  Duke's Hall, Royal Academy of Music, Lon 
Length: 7 Minutes 7 Secs. 
Rhapsody for viola & piano by Alan Richardson
Performer:  Su Zhen (Viola), Simon Lepper (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1977 
Venue:  Duke's Hall, Royal Academy of Music, Lon 
Length: 9 Minutes 17 Secs. 
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 2 by Frederick Delius
Performer:  Su Zhen (Viola), Simon Lepper (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923; France 
Venue:  Duke's Hall, Royal Academy of Music, Lon 
Length: 13 Minutes 13 Secs. 
Blythswood, for viola & piano by Rhian Samuel
Performer:  Su Zhen (Viola), Simon Lepper (Piano)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1996 
Venue:  Duke's Hall, Royal Academy of Music, Lon 
Length: 11 Minutes 24 Secs. 
Fantasy for Viola and Piano, Op. 54 by York Bowen
Performer:  Simon Lepper (Piano), Su Zhen (Viola)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1918; England 
Venue:  Duke's Hall, Royal Academy of Music, Lon 
Length: 15 Minutes 44 Secs. 

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