“ Some people say you play my music too romantically … but
I like it to be played that way.” Elgar to the sixteen
year old Yehudi Menuhin (1932).
child prodigy, the award-winning violinist Simone Lamsma
is working hard to establish herself on the international
stage. In Naxos’s continuing Laureate Series, the young Lamsma
presents her impeccable credentials in this fine début recital
recording of Elgar’s music for violin and piano.
Simone Lamsma, born in the Netherlands in October 1985,
started to play the violin at the age of five and later studied
at the Sweelinck Conservatorium in Amsterdam. In 1997 Lamsma moved
to England to study at the Yehudi Menuhin School with Professor
Hu Kun, with whom she studied until 2004 at the Royal Academy
of Music in London. At the RAM Lamsma became the youngest
student ever to enter the Bachelor of Music course and graduated
in 2005 with a first.
Lamsma has won numerous national and international awards
and scholarships, most notably prestigious first prizes in
the China International Violin Competition 2005; the Benjamin
Britten International Violin Competition 2004 and the National
Dutch Violin Competition 2003. Lamsma is playing on the ‘Habeneck’ Stradivarius
of 1734 on special loan to her by the RAM.
Born in Tokyo in 1981, Yurie Miura started her piano
studies at the age of three. In 2001 she, like Lamsma, entered
the Royal Academy of Music, London and graduated with a first
in 2005. Miura has won First Prizes at the Marienbad Chopin
(1999), Maria Canals (2001), and Haverhill (2003) international
The principal work here is Elgar's unashamedly Romantic
and deeply serious Sonata. The work was written in 1918 at
his cottage Brinkwells in the Sussex woods, the year prior
to the Cello Concerto in the same key. With his reputation
now firmly established, Elgar in this immediate post-war
period, successfully turned to chamber music with three great
works: the String Quartet, Op. 83 the Piano Quintet,
Op. 84 and the Violin Sonata, Op. 82.
In the Sonata Elgar’s bold and vigorous first
movement allegro is sensitively handled,
although, I would have preferred slightly more weight to
the interpretation. The fantastic curious movement
marked romance has a very expressive middle section,
with an impressive melody for the violin. Lamsma
and Miura are unable to provide the assurance and intensity
of some of the more established versions, however, I
enjoyed their sunny and glowing playing. The very broad and
soothing final movement allegro, non troppo concludes
in a climax of seeming optimism. There is a feeling
of relaxed enjoyment in this intelligently conceived performance.
My reference recording is the gloriously poetic account
from violinist Daniel Hope and pianist Simon Mulligan, recorded
in Wyastone, Monmouth in 2000 on Nimbus NI 5666. I also highly
value the assured and passionate 1985 account from Lorraine
McAslan and pianist John Blakely that I still own on an ASV
digital vinyl DCA 548. The recording was, I believe, reissued
on ASV Quicksilva CDQS6191 and is now available on Sanctuary
Classics ‘Resonance Series’ CDRSN3060. Another admired account
that has been described as having “rapt and concentrated
playing” is from violinist Lydia Mordkovitch and pianist
Julian Milford on Chandos CHAN 9624.
The other works date from the pre-1900s, and particularly
from Elgar’s years as a provincial violin teacher. Elgar’s
charming and lyrical Romance, Op. 1, complete with
undertones of seriousness, was written in 1878, when he was
taking violin lessons with Adolphe Pollitzer in London.
The Idyll, Pastourelle and Virelai,
the first two written in 1884 and the last perhaps as late
as 1890, are grouped together as Op. 4. The first was dedicated
to 'E.E. Inverness', recalling a Scottish holiday encounter
that had taken him from Inverness to Fort William along the
Great Glen, and also to Fingal's Cave. The lilting Pastourelle was
dedicated to Hilda Fitton, a friend from Malvern, and the Virelai to
the Worcester shopkeeper and violinist, his violin pupil
The famous Salut d'amour, Op. 12 is known in
many different arrangements. The work was originally called Liebesgrüss (sic)
and dedicated to Elgar's future wife, Caroline Alice. Elgar
made the mistake of selling the score too cheaply and outright
without royalties, not anticipating its future world-wide
commercial popularity. When it came to the Chanson de
matin and the Chanson de nuit, Op. 15, dating
from 1897. Elgar was anxious not to make the same naive publishing
mistake again. Both pieces make highly attractive and relatively
simple additions to the violin and piano repertoire. The Chanson
de matin is a cheerful piece that provides a contrast
to the Chanson de nuit, which is rather serious in
mood, for which Elgar had originally proposed the title 'Evensong'
or 'Vesper'. The Salut d'amour; Chanson
de matin and Chanson de nuit have all achieved
success in Elgar’s orchestral arrangements.
The Bizarrerie, Op. 13, No. 2 written in 1889
makes great technical demands in its cheerful insouciance.
Dating from 1891 La Capricieuse, Op. 17 is a light-hearted
exercise in staccato and double-stopping. The Offertoire – Andante
religioso, written in 1893 but only published in 1903
under Elgar’s pseudonym of Gustav Franke, is a little piece
of solemn religious intensity. The Mazurka, Op. 10,
No. 1 will be more familiar in its final version of 1899
as the first of the Three Characteristic Pieces for
Lamsma and Miura aptly capture the varying
moods of these delightful miniatures. They offer charming
and alert playing but at times I would have preferred a touch
more vivacity and poetry. The benchmark recordings in these shorter
pieces are the expressively sensitive interpretations from
violinist Lydia Mordkovitch and pianist Julian Milford on
Chandos CHAN 9624.
Both instruments are agreeably captured with Lamsma’s ‘Habeneck’ Stradivarius
sounding a touch overbright for my taste. The release has
the advantage of
first class annotation from Keith Anderson.
In this issue in Naxos’s Laureate Series we
are provided with a fine recital from two promising chamber
performers; names to follow.
For reviews of other Naxos recordings
of British composers on Musicweb,
see the themed release page