British Violin Sonatas
Sonatas by Walton, Alwyn, Jacob, Leighton, Rawsthorne & L Berkeley
Clare Howick (violin), Simon Callaghan (piano)
SOMM Recordings SOMMCD 0610 72:00 mins
The opening movement of Walton’s Violin Sonata is an elusive piece, by turns skittish, fiery, quizzical and reflective. British violinist Clare Howick and her pianist Simon Callaghan knit it cogently together, neatly negotiating a myriad of mood switches which could easily seem juddering.
Howick’s vibrato on high notes is both sweet and tense, and fits the mood of the movement’s partially becalmed coda precisely. She and Callaghan also vividly capture the wafts of melancholy which pervade the second movement variations and compel attention throughout its 14-minute duration.
Leighton’s youthful Violin Sonata No. 1 is more freely rhapsodic, and its opening movement has plenty of sap and passion in Howick’s and Callaghan’s tightly integrated performance. They find whiffs of Elgarian nostalgia in the wistful slow movement and relish its vaulting finale.
Alwyn’s Violin Sonatina is lighter in tone, and the seamless integration Howick and Callaghan achieve – none of this music is mainstream, but it sounds exceptionally well-rehearsed and lived-in – is consistently impressive. The demure Adagio is a particular pleasure, and the piquant finale scampers appealingly.
Of the half-dozen shorter pieces which fill out the recital, Howick enjoys herself particularly in the violinistic tap-dancing of Gordon Jacob’s Caprice, and the nimble pointe-steps of his Little Dancer. Lennox Berkeley’s hyperactive Toccata highlights Howick’s glove-tight partnership with Callaghan’s piano and makes a bristling encore.
Too many recordings nowadays duplicate well-worn repertoire for no good reason. This one doesn’t and is notably refreshing.