Right from the start of Martinu’s sonata we’re left in no doubt about the range and power of the viola’s voice—the dark, gritty lower register melds quickly into a singing, lyrical middle, the robust statements giving way to a playfully unpredictable song and rhythm, the piano pouring its own relentlessly percussive contributions into the mix. There’s a lot going on here, with the viola’s non-stop busy spinning melodies and dancing rhythms, the piano assertively pounding. This is a great showpiece for viola—and Sarah-Jane Bradley is a formidable advocate for it—but I can’t help feeling that the piano, both the writing and the playing here by Anthony Hewitt, is just too “large” to be a compatible partner with the viola (and violist). TheRead more recording also is somewhat close, so you hear everything up-front—and I have to say that it’s impossible to escape being caught in the sheer excitement—not that you’d really want to!
Yes, there are several other pieces on the program, and after the impressive hyper-activity of the Martinu, you’ll appreciate Bradley and Hewitt’s dreamy rendition of Kodály’s Adagio, affectingly swathed in Bradley’s golden tone. Dohnányi’s Sonata in Bradley’s arrangement becomes a masterful exploitation of the viola’s range, both in registers and expressive possibilities; The sweet melancholy and penetrating poignancy of Joachim’s Hebrew Melodies, especially in Bradley’s knowingly sensitive playing, remind us what a perfect instrument the viola is for this kind of expression; the concluding Enescu Concertstück is nine minutes of delightfully melodic, sweepingly romantic music ideal for this instrumental combination. As mentioned, the recording gives the piano a bit more presence than is always comfortable, but that’s a minor issue when the music and the playing is this engaging.
viola shinesMay 24, 2012By bess holloway (Boulder, CO)See All My Reviews"This recording is my first experience hearing the viola without other stringed instruments, and what a revelation it provides! I was unfamiliar with all except the Kodaly Adagio, so the learning here opens many horizons. The album is an exceptional value. "Report Abuse