This is the final volume of British Violin Sonatas. Tasmin Little and Piers Lane conclude their three-disc series in fine style. The program includes a spectrum of compositional styles, ranging from the serious and introspective to the light-hearted and diverting.
The album opens with York Bowen’s majestic Violin Sonata in E minor. Though written in 1945, stylistically it sounds (to me) more like something from the early 1900s. No matter — Bowen was a master at his craft, and this sonata delivers in drama and emotion.
Part of what makes this music work so well is Tasmin Little’s absolute command of the violin’s high register. The poignancy of Bowne’s melodies work because even the highest notes are perfectly in tune and sound with a lovely, rounded tone.
John Ireland’s Violin Sonata No. 2, which was written around 1916. And yet to me, it had a more modern sound than Bowen’s sonata. Ireland wrote the work in part to express the horrors of war he had experienced. The sonata has a very stringent sound to it. It’s a restless work. Little and Lane communicate that agitation effectively while keeping it in check. A terrific performance all around.
The remaining works in the program are somewhat lighter and provide a welcome balance to the big sonatas. William Alwyn withdrew his 1933 Sonatina, but it was published after his death. It’s a charming work that has a simplicity of character without being simple in construction.
The Hart’s Grace by James Francis Brown was composed for Little. This short work gives her a chance to showcase her technical strengths, cast in music that sounds almost improvisatory.
Eric Coates never fails to satisfy (I think), and the First Meeting, Souvenir is no exception. Coates was the master of light classical music, and this little piece charms the listener with its sentimental melody. Little treats the music with respect, playing emotionally without sounding maudlin.
I’m sad there won’t be a volume four in this series. But I’m grateful to Tasmin Little and Piers Lane for three volumes of beautiful performances they did record.
British Violin Sonatas, Volume 3
Bowen, Ireland, Alwyn, Brown, Coates
Tasmin Little, violin; Piers Lane, piano