Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tasmin Little: British Violin Sonatas, Volume One

British Violin Sonatas, Vol. 1 
Britten, Ferguson, Walton
Tasmin Little, violin
Piers Lane, piano

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!

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