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Richard III
Paul CARR (b. 1961)
Sonatina (2015) [14:51]
Richard PANTCHEFF (b. 1959)
King Richard III: Suite for solo Violin (2015) [40:45]
Francis POTT (b. 1957)
Tenebrae for Solo Violin (2015) [16:29]
Paul LEWIS (b. 1943)
Threnody for Violin: ‘The Most Famous Prince of Blessed Memory’ (2015) [27:07]
Lionel SAINSBURY (b. 1958)
Soliloquy, Op. 21 (1993) [7:32]
Rupert Marshall-Luck (violin)
Em Marshall-Luck (reciter: Pantcheff)
rec. 2016, Church of St Mary and St Alkelda, Middleham, Yorkshire
Spoken texts includes
EM RECORDS EMRCD045-46 [72:00 + 34:39]

Richard III is the focus of the commissioned works in this twofer. The brief was wide: for a work based upon whatever aspect of the king the composers chose. The results are frequently intriguing and, with the exception of Lionel Sainsbury’s Soliloquy, about which more below, all are therefore heard in world premiere recordings. They are all for solo violin though Richard Pantcheff includes spoken passages for a reciter.

Paul Carr’s four-movement Sonatina, inspired by the reburial of the king’s bones in Leicester Cathedral in March 2015, offers some attractive incidents, from dance motifs with echo effects and reflections, to a rather Spanish guitar-sounding pizzicato passage in the second movement, through an expressive processional to the vigorous martial finale. Here fanfare figures sound cleverly in the distance, a perceptive use of space and articulation, helped in no small degree by Rupert Marshall-Luck’s perceptively characterful playing.

Pantcheff’s very long suite offers a kind of sympathetic retrospective of Richard’s more humane characteristics. Elements of the music have been drawn from the third movement of his Sonata for Violin and Organ (on EMR CD029) but the texts taken from Swinburne, and recited by Em Marshall-Luck, expand the reach of the music significantly. There are many memorable touches, such as the emergent songful warmth – almost a compound of VW and Fauré – in the Retrospective movement (there are six movements altogether, a text paired with the music). The writing embraces elements reminiscent of Ysa˙e’s solo violin sonatas, as well as quite expressively spare paragraphs. There are narrative elements at work in the martial section, some juddering, and the death scene offers a melancholy descant, and tolling motifs.

Francis Pott’s Tenebrae presents a much more terse case. The music here is coiling and tense, angular and jagged though the third movement Lachrimae offers a Chaconne-like intensity before the finale returns to the semi-tonal motif of the opening. The Threnody of Paul Lewis is structured in eight movements referencing Richard the soldier, husband, father, king and so on. The music enshrines some elegant melancholy as well as upbeat confidence, courtly romance (pizzicati as lute), fanfares, resinous battle music and a sonorous, reflective Epilogue. This is very much a pro-Richard portrait and a very approachable one too. The only anomalous music here is Sainsbury’s Soliloquy, composed back in 1993 and rather co-opted for this recording. Indeed this is Marshall-Luck’s second recording of it; his first can be found on EMR CD011, and it’s also been recorded on Navona 5874. What is undeniable is the quality of the music – expressive, lyrical, introspective, virtuosic, and compelling.

The church acoustic has been well judged and as usual the booklet is packed with detail and fine illustrations.

Jonathan Woolf

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