British Violin Sonatas: Britten • Walton • Ferguson
The title might come across as ominously routine (yet more English-music completism for completism’s sake?); the contents are quite the opposite. Tasmin Little’s style may not be as ultra-sophisticated as that of some of her violin-playing contemporaries – and by the same token, it’s happily free of any hint of narcissistic self-regard, so that nothing stands in the way of her forthright and superb communication skills. Some seriously impressive moments include, in the first movement of Ferguson’s Sonata, a display of high E-string tone whose bombproof control and startling intensity could hold their own in any company – and the work itself, too, has a supple inventiveness lifting it way beyond the unambitious conformity preferred by so many composers of this British vintage.
The young Benjamin Britten, for sure, was never in danger of succumbing to low creative horizons. His early Suite, completed in 1935, insistently operates behind this or that stylistic mask; but if true maturity still lay a few years ahead, the musical result here was nonetheless a tour de force of penetrating brilliance, matched by Little with suitable verve and virtuosity. Walton’s winsome Sonata has a likeable companion in the Two Pieces: preceding the ‘Scherzetto’ second of these (originally the Sonata’s middle movement) is a ‘Canzonetta’, an arrangement of a medieval troubabour song showing Walton’s touch at its most exquisite. Little’s playing has ceaseless and strong support from Lane’s accompaniments; the recorded sound, in Suffolk’s Potton Hall, finds a lovely balance between state-of-the-art detail and warm resonance.