WORKS: Viola Sonata; Five Sketches for Viola; Viola Sonata
PERFORMER: Philip Dukes (viola)Sophia Rahman (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: GAM CD 537 DDD
After their welcome recording of her songs, reviewed here last year, Gamut turn to Rebecca Clarke’s Viola Sonata, written in 1918 while the composer was busy giving chamber concerts in Honolulu.
Clarke was herself a viola player (the first of her sex in Henry Wood’s orchestra, and a committed quartet player), and her sonata, particularly in its 12-minute final slow movement, shows an adventurous and comprehensive understanding of the instrument. The piece begins with the pentatonic tints of English pastoral, but soon frees itself into a strong and sensuous rhapsody which, with the exotic primitivism of the thrumming central movement, owes more to the registers and sonorities of Ravel.
Elizabeth Maconchy’s Five Sketches for solo viola are the perfect foil: small, rare and just ten years old, they hover between Webern-like abstraction, the keening of folksong and the fleeting footwork of dance. In these two works, the young viola player Philip Dukes and pianist Sophia Rahman give dedicated performances. Their command of the great Shostakovich Sonata for Viola and Piano, the composer’s last completed work, is total. If the recorded piano sound were slightly better, this performance could take its place beside the best in the catalogue. Hilary Finch