- Pieces (2) for violin & piano - William Walton - Piers Lane - Tasmin Little
- Sonata for Violin & Piano - William Walton - Piers Lane - Tasmin Little
- Suite, for violin & piano, Op. 6 - Benjamin Britten - Piers Lane - Tasmin Little
- Sonata for violin & piano, No. 2, Op. 10 - Howard Ferguson - Piers Lane - Tasmin Little
British Violin Sonatas, Vol. 1: Walton, Ferguson, Brittenby Tasmin Little
British violinist Tasmin Little has specialized in neglected repertory, and the four works here, exactly half of which are sonatas, certainly fill the bill in that regard. All are British works from the second quarter of the 20th century, and all were swept aside by a self-serving modernism. The biggest find is the "Suite for violin and piano, Op. 6," by a 21-year-old… See more details below
British violinist Tasmin Little has specialized in neglected repertory, and the four works here, exactly half of which are sonatas, certainly fill the bill in that regard. All are British works from the second quarter of the 20th century, and all were swept aside by a self-serving modernism. The biggest find is the "Suite for violin and piano, Op. 6," by a 21-year-old Benjamin Britten. It is identifiable as Britten but isn't much like anything else he wrote, with short character pieces such as a march, lullaby, and waltz stripped down to their essential elements in a sharp, witty way. It's delightful, and those vitally interested in the period may find the booklet notes worth the price by themselves: they recount how the aging Walton, irked by Britten's sudden success, turned a photo of Britten in a music shop upside down (they later became supportive friends). However, the late "Violin Sonata" of Walton, written for Yehudi Menuhin in the late 1940s after he loaned the composer money for cancer treatments for his girlfriend, is also well worth hearing. It is an impassioned, complex work in two long movements, cut from similar cloth to that of Walton's "Violin Concerto" (1939). Walton rightly excised its middle movement, a little Scherzetto included as half of the "Two Pieces for violin and piano" that close the album. The "Violin Sonata No. 2, Op. 10," of Howard Ferguson is an even more obscure work, full of long Schubertian melodies transferred to a late Romantic idiom. Ferguson gave up composing completely in the late 1950s as his conservative idiom fell out of favor, but his time has come again, as indeed has that of all this music. Little's performances are imbued with radiant lyricism, and she doesn't lose control of the big Walton movements, which in lesser hands could be a tough slog. Very well done all around.
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Tasmin Little's off to a great start with her survey of British violin sonatas. Volume One features Howard Ferguson's quintessentially British Violin Sonata No. 2, Benjamin Britten's cosmopolitan Suite for Violin and Piano, and three works by William Walton that fall stylistically somewhere between. Tasmin Little plays them all with an expressive yet precise manner, letting the merits of the compositions speak for themselves. Howard Ferguson was a somewhat conservative composer, writing in the English pastoral style after it had passed out of favor. His Violin Sonata No. 2, Op. 10 is an elegantly crafted piece of music, sounding akin to Vaughan Williams' early string works. The Suite for Violin and Piano, Op. 6 is an early work by Benjamin Britten. Written two years before his Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge, the suite shares the same sophisticated musical language. The angular melodic leaps, complex harmonies and sometimes frantic energy give the suite an international flavor. William Walton's 1947 Sonata for Violin and Piano begins lyrically, seeming at times to look back to the English pastoral school that Ferguson never left. In the second movement, Walton shows he was quite familiar with atonality and serialism -- even if he didn't fully embrace them. Two short violin pieces by Walton round out the album, each a delightful vignette. While each of the three major works has its own character, they compliment each other with their differences, and make a coherent program with their similarities. The result is a listening experience that is a pleasure from first to last. I look forward to volume two!