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English Music for Viola
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From the Old World to the New
Karina Lucas, Rebecca Jones (viola) & Simon Lane (piano)
A unique disc of music for voice, viola and piano, with works contrasting the romance of the old world with the realism and optimism of the new. Charles Martin Loeffler was a German composer who emigrated to the USA, and this represents the première recording of his Quatre Poèmes, a haunting set of four songs with viola. Copland’s Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson could not be more different. Set after the second world war, they represent a more angular view of nature and the transitory nature of life. Between these two sit Brahms and Bridge, representatives of another age – another world.
“Although her tangy light mezzo can grow a tad strident under pressure, Lucas vividly catches the varied moods of the Loeffler songs...If sustained high notes can become squally, Lucas's soft singing is always affecting, not least at the rapt close of 'The Chariot'. For all my provisos, this is certainly a debut recital worth hearing” Gramophone Magazine, December 2011
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Bridge: Piano Quintet & Violin Sonata
Recorded: Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth, 21-23 December 2009
London Bridge Ensemble: Daniel Tong (piano), Benjamin Nabarro (violin), Lucy Gould (violin), Tom Dunn (viola) & Kate Gould (cello)
In this tuneful and attractive programme Daniel Tong (piano) and the London Bridge Ensemble present three major chamber works by Frank Bridge from his engaging pre-First World War period, including the recording of Paul Hindmarsh’s edition of the Violin Sonata in E flat. Commanding performances of the well-known Piano Quintet of 1912 and the comparatively little-known Phantasie in F minor for string quartet, with which Bridge won second prize in the Cobbett Competition in 1905, make a fine group. These major works are complemented by charming performances of three piano pieces – April, Rosemary and Valse Capricieuse – two for viola and piano – Pensiero and the powerful Allegro Appasionato – and the Spring Song for cello and piano.
“the poetry, flexibility and ardour displayed by these gifted players held me captive from first note to last...Don't hesitate for a moment - and fingers crossed for more Bridge from this exemplary team!” Gramophone Magazine, December 2010
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The English Viola
Eniko Magyar (viola) & Tadashi Imai (piano)
The viola, with its plangent tone, subtle sonority and lyrical qualities, is often overshadowed by its more brilliant-sounding sibling, the violin.
An accomplished violist himself, Frank Bridge wrote little solo music for this instrument; only the Pensiero and Allegro appassionato were published in his lifetime, the other works on this disc being the composer’s arrangements of some of his violin pieces.
Similarly, Delius’s Third Violin Sonata is heard here in an effective arrangement by the celebrated violist Lionel Tertis, the dedicatee of Bliss’s expressive Viola Sonata.
“A violist of the highest calibre”. Yuri Bashmet
“Magyar gives a most compelling interpretation...[a] marriage of youthful vigour and songful grace...Magyar and Imai are utterly convincing protagonists of all this attractive material” Gramophone Magazine, May 2010
“[Magyar] extracts a near cello-like weight of tone; in the extreme top register, the fullness and purity of the sound is remarkable; and wherever possible, she finds a lovely range of light and shade.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2010 ****
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Helen Callus (viola) & Phillip Bush (piano)
“Helen Callus, a viola-player with exceptionally warm tone and perfect intonation, here offers a miscellany of transcriptions. A fine collection, superbly performed, very well recorded and sensitively accompanied.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2007
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Viola Recital: Maxim Rysanov
“My rival has arrived!” Yuri Bashmet on Maxim Rysanov
Maxim Rysanov is re-defining the art of viola playing for a new generation. This Ukrainian-born, London-based artist is, quite simply, one of the world’s finest and most charismatic viola players. “Romantic expression”, says Rysanov, is the thread that unites the half-dozen works on his solo debut disc with Taiwanese pianist Evelyn Chang. Spanning the better part of two centuries, all of the works on this recording stem from a particular romantic – or romanticized – perspective. And if anyone can coax the kaleidoscopic aspects of romance out of the viola it’s Maxim Rysanov, whether in Brahms’ vivacious FAE Sonata, Enescu’s robust Concert Piece, or Glinka’s delicate Sonata. The two movements by Frank Bridge exhibit the composer’s own skill on the instrument, to which Franck’s Sonata lends its romantic ardour perfectly. The disc’s “encore” is an enchanting miniature written for Rysanov by Bulgarian-born, London-based Dobrinka Tabakova.
Recorded at Potton Hall, Suffolk, 7 - 9 August 2006
“…Rysanov makes out an excellent case for taking up the Franck A major Sonata, his arrangement judiciously steering a middle course between the violin and cello versions, but gaining an extra degree of richness of tone in the upper registers. The other items are no less striking. ...Rysanov and Chang achieve wonderfully veiled colours in both the Glinka Sonata and Dobrinka Tabakova's haunting Whispered Lullaby.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2007 *****
“One feels that Maxim Rysanov has a very special relationship with his Guadagnini viola, delighting in bringing out the particular qualities of its different registers - husky lower notes, brilliant high ones which, however, retain weight and intensity. He's well matched by the energy and vitality of Evelyn Chang's playing, strikingly so at the start of the CD (Brahms).” Gramophone Magazine, June 2007
“If you have the initial impression that this is a motley collection of pieces, lacking focus, do think again. For one thing, it makes an effective recital programme, the items setting one another off, leading up to the major work (Franck) and concluding with a perfect encore (Tabakova).
And the playing, in its technical command and imaginative grasp, is outstanding. One feels that Maxim Rysanov has a very special relationship with his Guadagnini viola, delighting in bringing out the particular qualities of its different registers – husky lower notes, brilliant high ones which, however, retain weight and intensity. He's well matched by the energy and vitality of Evelyn Chang's playing, strikingly so at the start of the CD (Brahms). On the following tracks (Glinka), she shows very different qualities; sparkling passagework and elegant lyrical expression, and she's equally convincing with the impressionistic sonorities of the Enescu.
Throughout the disc, the attention is constantly grabbed by powerfully expressive duo playing. Rysanov appears as a true virtuoso in the Enescu and in the second of the Bridge pieces, yet he's able to scale down his performance for the intimate, dreamy Tabakova Lullaby, and in the Glinka he brings a subtly individual quality to each melodic phrase. And there's a strong sense that Chang and Rysanov really enjoy playing together.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
BBC Music Magazine
Chamber Choice - August 2007
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The Blissful Viola
Ksenia Nosikova (piano), Christine Rutledge (viola)
Heartache: An Anthology of English Viola Music
Dame Avril Piston (viola), Shamonia Harpa (piano)
“The album is an object lesson for any young player, for so often this generation of composers has been dismissed. They knew how to write wonderful tunes, expressed themselves and provide concert works that were concise. The recording, made in Suffolk, is well balanced” Essex Chronicle, April 2008
“...there’s a fair amount of genuine, sensitive musicianship here, too. Piston and her long-term musical partner Harpa work together well, though it has to be said Piston sounds more comfortable in the slow, wistful numbers...some of these pieces are well worth reviving (especially those by Bridge and Rebecca Clarke) – young viola players in search of encores take note.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2004 ***
“Every piece of music in this recital is well worth hearing and deserving of a place in the catalogues. Dame Avril writes her own informative notes, and I recommend this very well-filled and remarkable CD with enthusiasm.” International Record Review, June 2004
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