Clifton Noble will
need a little introduction. Born in
1961 he studied at Amherst and at Smith
Colleges and since 1987 he’s been a
pianist at the latter college. He also
plays traditional jazz and has made
some recordings in this capacity. Noble
has written numerous works for Smith’s
choral forces and now here are some
of his violin sonatas. The First, Winter,
has not been included so we have in
effect a Seasons-minus-one disc, supplemented
by the untitled Fifth.
I enjoyed Noble’s sonatas.
They’re broadly traditional, going no
further than Bartók and instead
perhaps influenced by someone like Poulenc.
The stern Bartókian opening of
No.2 is for instance immediately followed
by some lyricism reminiscent of Richard
Strauss’s own Violin Sonata, or maybe
Rosenkavalier. The central movement
has a certain lissom Gallic quality
laced with hints of gallantry whilst
the finale is an amusing Rondo with
The Third Sonata opens
with a solo recitative and then gives
us something of an American pop sensibility,
all served with clean French lines.
The slow movement, marked Languorous,
is a lopey-bluesy air, a second cousin
of Gershwin but not as explicitly bluesy
as say something by Grant Still and
the finale hints at hoe down time whilst
never quite embracing it – nice puckish
pizzicatos. The Fourth Sonata,
Autumn, was begun on the day
of the Twin Towers calamity. Lyrical
to begin with it becomes more turbulent
in the Inexorable central panel
with its tumbling violin figures and
the emergence of the Amazing Grace theme.
The finale is affirmatory not defiant.
Finally we have the
non-Seasonal Fifth written in 2004.
It’s the most extensive and harmonically
most advanced of the four. It moves
from slumbering to active, from dream-like
to ominous, though as ever he can lighten
the load with an Intermezzo and construct
an uncluttered and unpretentious finale
Noble himself does
the honours as pianist and his violinist
of choice is Joel Pitchon, who ably
projects each turn of Noble’s writing
with adroit understanding. Good recording
quality completes a clean-limbed, and
enjoyable selection of Noble’s violin