Holst • Vaughan Williams • Walford Davies
This is the third instalment of an excellent series devoted to obscure British works for violin and piano. Published individually in 1902-04, Holst’s five miniatures are the most interesting novelty here. None has been previously recorded, apart from the Valse-Étude, once championed and recorded by the virtuoso Marie Hall (who also assisted Vaughan Williams with composing his Lark Ascending). This and the emotionally ambivalent A Spring Song demand a level of musicianship higher than that required for pot-boilers. Even the three remaining salon-style works (one of them curiously called Maya after the Hindu concept featured in Holst’s opera Savitri) are beguiling and melodious, recalling Grieg with some harmonic hints of Wagner.
Vaughan Williams’s Violin Sonata in A minor has been recorded several times before: a late work, it is rather discursive compared with such succinct contemporary compositions as his Blake settings or the choral Shakespeare Songs. Even so, its lively profusion of ideas demands as fully committed performance as it receives here. Similarly fine advocacy is given to Walford Davies’s Sonata in E flat, composed well before such hits as his RAF March Past and The Holly and the Ivy; though superficially a plausible imitation of Brahms, it lacks both the German composer’s sense of structural purpose or melodic inspiration.