Bliss: Oboe Quintet; Piano Quartet; Viola Sonata

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bliss
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Oboe Quintet; Piano Quartet; Viola Sonata
PERFORMER: Nicholas Daniel (oboe), Peter Donohoe, Julian Rolton (piano), Martin Outram (viola); Maggini Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555931
The second volume of Naxos’s series of Arthur Bliss’s chamber music begins with a rarity: only the second recording (the ASV rival was reviewed last August) of a Quartet for piano and strings written and performed during the First World War, then withdrawn by the composer (and, so he thought, destroyed) – probably because of the too obvious influence of Vaughan Williams and Holst. It proves well worth reviving, especially in this affectionate performance. The ambitious 1933 Viola Sonata has a virtuoso viola part written for the great Lionel Tertis, and a similarly challenging piano part first played by Solomon. Martin Outram here surmounts its difficulties without completely concealing them. The 1927 Quintet for oboe and strings, written for Leon Goossens, is a most attractive piece, with Irish jig rhythms creeping into the central slow movement and dominating the lively finale. The interpretation is carefully thought out, and executed with great brilliance. Nicholas Daniel’s oboe is perhaps a touch too embedded in the overall sound, but the results are still clearer than on the otherwise excellent BIS version by Gordon Hunt and the Tale Quartet.

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Altogether, especially with the only version of the Viola Sonata in the current catalogue, this disc is clearly a must for the growing number of Bliss enthusiasts. Anthony Burton