British Treasures: Violin Sonatas = GOOSSENS: Violin Sonata; HURLSTONE: Violin Sonata in D Minor; TURNBULL: Violin Sonata in E Minor – Madeline Mitchell, v./ Andrew Ball, p. – SOMM

by | Mar 15, 2012 | Classical CD Reviews

British Treasures: Violin Sonatas = GOOSSENS: Violin Sonata No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 21; HURLSTONE: Violin Sonata in D Minor; TURNBULL: Violin Sonata in E Minor – Madeline Mitchell, violin/ Andrew Ball, piano – SOMM CD 031, 63:10 [Distr. by Allegro] ****:
Madeline Mitchell serves as a Professor at the Royal College of Music, London ,and she has worked closely with Peter Maxwell Davies. These collaborations with pianist Andrew Ball, also a Professor at the Royal College of Music, London, date from 5-7 August 2002.
The recordings of the Hurlstone and Turnbull works represent their first inscriptions. The 1918 Goossens Sonata has had recordings in the past, including one by Andre Mangeot and Goossens in the 1920s on 78 rpm.
The Goossens E Minor Sonata immediately likens its “impressionistic” contours to those influences Eugene Goossens (1893-1962) freely admitted: Richard Strauss, Debussy, and Ravel. Clearly romantic in character, the expansive opening movement Allegro con anima projects a watery surface in the keyboard, while modal harmonies and askew scales from Mitchell hint at Szymanowski and Bax. Goossens dedicated the piece to Albert Sammons, who premiered the work with William Murdoch 1 May 1920. The short militant phrases and riffs expressed never become harsh, only emotionally insistent. The liner notes do not credit Mitchell’s instrument, but it certainly proves expressive and silken. The Molto adagio second movement, a sustained cantilena, utilizes a folk song, garnering from one critic the reaction that it represents “the most single-minded piece of tone poetry the composer has written.”  In the course of the exalted melodic development, the keyboard heaps waves of sound, reminiscent of Franck’s aural world but more likely casting a visual image of the waves upon Dover Beach. The last movement, Con brio, conveys a rustic energy, slightly barbaric in the Bartok sense, though lacking his Magyar predilections. A four-note pattern and rolling arpeggios come to dominate the texture, and again Mitchell’s violin has an ardent song to sing. The latter pages become more virtuosic, indulging in bariolage and rapid shifts of register, but the vocal element remains potent. The music staggers to a pregnant pause, only to renew the four-note motif and swagger to a meditative then fiery coda.
William Hurlstone (1876-1906) seems to have thrived musically under the tutelage of Charles Villiers Stanford at the RCM. Poor health finally took its toll on the short-lived Hurlstone. The 1897 D Minor Sonata is dedicated to Hurlstone’s friend, violinist William J. Reed. The first movement Allegro leans to the modal side of Brahms, adding a sixth to the harmony of the second subject. Essentially lyric in character, the music occasionally evolves chromatically, but its often rustic diatonism reminds me of Grieg. In its more “noble” carriage, the music has dignity and intimate persuasion. The second movement Andante moderato reveals the composer’s ingenuity and fluid sense of the rondo form, combining a lyrical gift with a loose variation procedure whose development hints at the scherzo Grieg gives us in his C Minor Sonata. The last movement Allegro scherzando demonstrates all sorts of witty facility in its irregular measures, delayed formal cadences, and sprightly dance ethos. The counter subject intimates a chorale tune, and the merging of the two impulses might have been the brainchild of Percy Grainger.  The working-out in sonata-form proceeds according to classical strictures, modified by Hurlstone’s innate combination of fanciful wit and melodic expressivity. The piano part assumes its own character, staccato and liquid, alternatively, again in the Brahms mode guided by folk rhetoric, concluding appassionato.
Percy Turnbull (1902-1976), a pupil of Holst, Ireland, and Vaughan Williams, could boast an exceeding keyboard prowess, often performing at the RCM and at Wigmore Hall. His Violin Sonata in E Minor (1924) lay dormant during the composer’s lifetime but resurfaced in 1983 at the University of Southampton. Another admirer of the sonorities of Ravel and Debussy, Turnbull has his opening Allegro stop and start in emblazoned figures in the Dorian mode. The melodic arch becomes quite pungent and potent, asking violinist Mitchell to alternate arco and pizzicato effects over strong ostinati from pianist Ball. The music dies away in meditative filigree close to Franck. In C-sharp Minor, the melancholy Andante moderato presents a sustained lyrical moment, the tune reminiscent of the love song in the Princess’ garden scene in the 1940 Thief of Bagdad. Later, the melody takes a more oriental turn, still lyrically transparent. Beautifully controlled dynamic shadings from Mitchell justify the price of admission.  An exotic restiveness permeates the last movement, Allegro scherzando, finely honed in the manner of Ravel or Faure. The subtle and evocative piano part adds a luxury to the emotional palette that well complements Mitchell’s expressive violin. Her innate sympathy for these works has been evident on every page.
—Gary Lemco

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