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Warp and Weft Rebecca CLARKE (1886-1979)
Suite for Two Violins and Piano (1909) [18:22] Paul PATTERSON (b.1947)
Allusions Trio for Two Violins and Piano (2016) [17:48] Gordon JACOB (1895-1984)
Four Bagatelles for Two Violins (1961) [5:28] Ernest John MOERAN (1894-1950)
Sonata for Two Violins (1930) [15:58] Alan RAWSTHORNE 91905-1971)
Theme and Variations for Two Violins (1937) [16:18]
Midori Komachi and Sophie Rosa (violins): Simon Callaghan (piano)
rec. December 2016, St John the Evangelist, Oxford EM RECORDS EMRCD043 [73:46]
The repertoire for two violins is quite a rarefied one, whether for violins alone or with piano accompaniment, and in the specifically British context of this disc it ranges from Rebecca Clarke’s 1909 work to Paul Patterson’s Allusions Trio of 2016, a reworking of his 2007 Double Violin Concerto.
Clarke’s work is here called a Suite though Christopher Johnson, who was largely responsible for finding the work in 2000, called it by the less grand title ‘Three Movements’ when it first appeared on Dutton CDLX7132 played by Lorraine McAslan and David Juritz. In any case the work is a torso, its fourth movement, called Finale, being unfinished. Nevertheless, the Prelude, Danse Bizarre and Nocturne form a pleasing and surviving triptych and are attractively played. McAslan and Juritz remain the more daring exponents with more intimate dynamics.
Philippa Mo and Harriet Mackenzie (NMC CD182) have also recorded the Moeran and Rawsthorne pieces selected by Midori Komanchi, Sophie Rosa and pianist Simon Callaghan. The folklorically rich Moeran Sonata was composed in 1930 and is dusted with lightly introspective moments of dissolution. Use of pizzicati, sparing in the opening movement, saturates the central fast movement with harp-like accompaniment, the freewheeling fiddles’ metric displacements proceeding with a brief element of keening. Meanwhile the Passacaglia is vibrant and alluring. It’s my impression that this sonata is the less well-known relation to the Violin Sonata, String Trio and the Quartets but it’s definitely a work Moeran lovers should get to know.
Gordon Jacob’s Four Bagatelles date from 1961 and this is the premiere recording. Written as a Christmas gift for the violinist David Martin, it’s little more than five minutes in length, packing in a Carol, a Gopak, a Mazurka and a rather unseasonal Autumn Sketch. This charmingly unpretentious work seems in places to evoke a consort sonority. The Sketch is warm as a fireside, the Gopak lively and crisp. The world premiere recording of Patterson’s Allusions Trio welcomes back Simon Callaghan for its Verdian and Mozartian subtexts: Falstaff, Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro weave themselves into the scheme of things with taut dialogues and exchanges. The finale, Beneath the Surface, requires pin-point entries from the two string players, which it certainly receives.
Rawsthorne’s Theme and Variations is the best-known and most demanding of the quintet of pieces. It was considered a significant enough work to be recorded soon after its premiere and you can still find the Decca 78s, made by Jessie Hinchliffe (Rawsthorne’s wife) and Kathleen Washbourne, if you search hard enough. The counterpoint of the Cancrizzante is taut, and the pulseless intensity of the Rhapsodia hits the mark, as does the sul ponticello lyricism of the Notturno and the sonorous closure of the Fantasia with which the work ends. It’s not the Rawthorne’s fault that, as a work, it rather dwarfs its disc-fellows for intellectual ambition. It’s good to have a new recording of it, given that Nicholas Ward and Pauline Lowbury’s Redcliffe CD dates from 1990.
The disc’s title presumably alludes to the threading of the two violins. Both instrumentalists play with assurance and evince fine technical resources whilst Callaghan proves unimpeachable support when called upon. There’s a well-judged church acoustic and attractive notes - though as usual split between composer biography and the works concerned – making this disc an attractive proposition.