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Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Music for Violin and Piano

Violin Sonata in E minor, Op. 82 (1918) [23:33]
Romance for violin and piano, Op. 1 (1878) [4:29]
Bizarrerie, Op. 13, No. 2 (1889) [2:14]
Pastourelle, Op. 4, No. 2 (1884) [2:55]
La Capricieuse, Op. 17 (1891) [4:05]
Virelai, Op. 4, No. 3 (c.1890) [2:07]
Mazurka Op. 10, No. 1 (from Three Characteristic Pieces for orchestra) (1889) [2:32]
Idyll, Op. 4, No. 1 (1884) [2:51]
Chanson de nuit, Op. 15, No. 1 (1897) [3:57]
Chanson de matin, Op. 15, No. 2 (1897) [2:37]
Salut d'amour, Op. 12 ‘Liebesgrüss (1888) [2:36]
Offertoire - Andante religioso (1893) [4:19]
Simone Lamsma (violin)
Yurie Miura (piano)
rec. 3-4 October 2005, Potton Hall, Suffolk, England. DDD
NAXOS 8.557984 [58:17]
 


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).
 
One-time 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 competitions.
 
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 Frank Webb.
 
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 orchestra.
 
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.
 
Michael Cookson

For reviews of other Naxos recordings of British composers on Musicweb,
see the themed release page

 



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