Notes and Editorial Reviews
Given Tasmin Little’s previous explorations in the studio, it must have been tricky to construct a well-balanced series of British sonatas to record for Chandos. She’s well-known for her Elgar, Delius and Bax, naturally, but there is a body of repertoire she hasn’t yet recorded and her contract has allowed her to investigate more widely. This second disc of her series shows the fruits of that search, not least in the case of John Ireland’s Sonata No.1, the big work here.
In a thoughtful booklet note Little recounts that she had only just got to know the Ireland – not such a surprise as the companion A minor is the preferred port of call. She negotiates its moods, reflections, and tempo adjustments with great skill, abetted by Piers Lane’s astute pianism, and he clearly enjoys the slow movement’s rolled chords and those moments in the finale that sounds like one of Ireland’s impressionist piano miniatures. Ireland himself probably wouldn’t have approved of their tempi - he was a curmudgeon about spaced chords and preferred loftier tempos. Listening to his own recording with Frederick Grinke in 1945 (Dutton CDLX7103) rather makes the point, as they are nearly three minutes slower than the Little-Lane duo.
The duo has known the early Bridge Sonata for a good while now – and it’s not to be confused with the larger and later work. The H39 Sonata dates from 1904 and survives as a torso with the second of its two movements completed by Paul Hindmarsh. The duo plays it with a rich tone. There are, in particular, some finely executed dynamics in the second movement. Arthur Bliss’s own early Sonata, written around 1914-16, was dedicated to Lady Elgar and was edited for performance by Rupert Marshall-Luck in 2010. He indeed gave it the first recording with Matthew Rickard (EMR CD001). The Little-Lane duo is a touch slower and brings out the music’s largely unsullied lyricism and nostalgia with great conviction. The little March motif and the VW-like songfulness coalesce in a sunset close of some real beauty.
RVW himself is represented by his Two Pieces, written at roughly the same time as the Bliss. The Pastorale is the pick, tender and folkloric. The disc ends with William Lloyd Webber’s The Gardens at Eastwell, a premiere recording. It’s a thorough charmer, dolce espressivo, as noted.
This is a classy disc, with fine booklet notes – except for the misspelling of Marjorie Hayward’s surname – and a generously warm acoustic, which precisely reflects the nature of the music-making.
– MusicWeb International (Jonathan Woolf)