SOMM Recordings pays tribute to the remarkable flourishing of British Violin Sonatas in the 20th century with a collection of music for violin and piano by six key figures of the modern chamber music renaissance in Britain.
Making her debut on SOMM, violinist Clare Howick’s championing of this repertoire prompted iclassical to declare “the record-buying public owe [her] a debt of gratitude”. She is accompanied by pianist Simon Callaghan.
From the middle of the century, and commissioned for Yehudi Menuhin, William Walton’s Violin Sonata is unique in the composer’s oeuvre with its almost constant sense of nervous uncertainty. Composed the same year (1948), Kenneth Leighton’s youthful First Violin Sonata is the product, as Robert Matthew-Walker comments in his authoritative booklet notes, of “a deep-thinking musician of whom everything he was to write, from his earliest compositions onwards, is genuinely felt and unaffectedly original”.
William Alwyn’s beautifully proportioned Sonatina (1933) receives only its second appearance on disc here. Composed the following year, Alan Rawsthorne’s Pierrette: Valse Caprice is best remembered from its quotation in the composer’s soundtrack for the 1947 film Uncle Silas.
The contrasted Elegy and Toccata from Lennox Berkeley’s 1951 Op.33 reveal a master craftsman in miniature, while three pieces by Gordon Jacob – Little Dancer (1959), Caprice (1969) and Elegy (1972) – all make their first appearances on disc here.
Somm gratefully acknowledges the support of the William Alwyn Foundation, the Lennox Berkeley Society, the Delius Trust, the Rawsthorne Trust and the RVW Trust in making this recording.
On This Recording
William Walton: Sonata for Violin and Piano
- I Allegro tranquillo
- II Variazioni
- Allegro e grazioso
- Little Dancer (for Frederick Grinke)*
- I Allegro molto appassionato
- II Lento e liberamente
- III Presto energico
- Pierette: Valse Caprice
- Elegy, Op.33 No.2
- Toccata, Op.33 No.3 (for Frederick Grinke)
William Alywn: Sonatina for Violin and Piano
Kenneth Leighton: Sonata for Violin and Piano No.1 (to Christopher Strode)
“ This is a glorious programme, including premiere recordings of three captivating miniatures by Gordon Jacob – the Elegy, Caprice and Little Dancer – played by Clare Howick and Simon Callaghan with arresting sensitivity, captured in radiant, velvety sound and further enhanced by exemplary annotations from Robert Matthew-Walker.” —Julian Haylock, The Strad (June Recommended Recording)
“beautifully performed… enjoyable… engaging… Walton’s searchingly lyrical… Sonata… is [a] masterpiece” —The Sunday Times
“Clare Howick’s tone is lovely and her technique impeccable, while Simon Callaghan is an able and sensitive partner. The recording is excellent and the balance between instruments is ideal. They sound intimate but not uncomfortably close. … there is much here to admire and enjoy, and I heartily recommend this CD.” —Nigel Bolland, British Music SocietyBritish Music Society
“Howick’s flexible tone is well suited to the fragile dissonance of Walton’s harmony and the prevalence of seventh intervals in the composer’s thematic shapes (rather similar to the Violin Concerto of 1939) is prudently combined with some tasteful application of portamento. Callaghan’s clean accompaniment provides a sympathetic backdrop, especially in the substantial character variations of the second movement. Leighton’s Sonata, written when the composer was barely 19, provides further evidence of his prodigious talent as a young man. Both performers are at their best in the striking slow movement, whose more pulsating, melancholy strains contrast with the more passionate élan of the outer movements. The varied hues and shades of Howick’s timbral range are well suited to the array of short pieces that fill the rest of the disc. … there is much to admire in [Howick’s] pensive interpretation of [Alwyn’s] slow movement and the crispness of her bowing in the jaunty finale.” —Jeremy Dibble, Gramophone (June 2020)
“Spanning some forty years, these works make a worthy addition to the growing corpus of English/British chamber music on record. … The high quality of performance from the duo of Clare Howick and Simon Callaghan is conspicuous throughout this album. Their artistry is melded with unwavering focus and unfailing rapport, and their attractive sound adds to the joy of these works. The Somm engineering team provide clear, well balanced sonics and the album is nicely presented, too.” —Michael Cookson, MusicWeb International