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Clifton J NOBLE (b.1961)
Violin Sonata No.2 Spring (1987) [13.23]
Violin Sonata No.3 Summer (2000) [11.45]
Violin Sonata No.4 Autumn (2001) [11.48]
Violin Sonata No.5 (2004) [15.50]
Joel Pitchon (violin)
Clifton J. Noble (piano)
rec. Smith College, undated [2005]
GASPARO GSCD-363 [52.48]

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 old-fashioned charm.

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 nicely.

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 works.

Jonathan Woolf



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