Bax: Violin Sonata in G minor; Violin Sonata No. 1 in E; Ballad; Legend

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WORKS: Violin Sonata in G minor; Violin Sonata No. 1 in E; Ballad; Legend
PERFORMER: Robert Gibbs (violin); Mary Mei-Loc Wu (piano)
Bax’s orchestral music is now well established on disc; but he was also a prolific composer of chamber music. This is the second of a pair of discs containing all his music for violin and piano. The main work is the substantial First Sonata, begun in 1910, completed in 1915 and premiered in 1920 by the Polish violinist Paul Kochanski and Bax himself. Kochanski was a leading advocate of Szymanowski, and the Sonata recalls Szymanowski’s mature music in its chromatically perfumed atmosphere, its yearning violin melodies and its decorative piano-writing; but chronology suggests this is a matter less of direct influence than of a shared heritage of Wagner, Debussy and Scriabin. The First Sonata is complemented by an ardent if derivative sonata movement from Bax’s student years, and two expressive short pieces from the period of the First World War. The performances are secure and idiomatic, with Gibbs especially effective in sweet, high melodic writing – though in louder passages his fine-grained sound is sometimes swamped by the close-miked piano. Recommended to Bax enthusiasts; other enquiring listeners may be satisfied with the vividly characterised performances of the First and Second Sonatas by Erich Gruenberg and John McCabe on Chandos. Anthony Burton