WORKS: Violin Sonata in E minor; Sursum corda; Salut d’amour; Chanson de matin; Chanson de nuit
PERFORMER: Lydia Mordkovitch (violin)Julian Milford (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9624
The Violin Sonata dates from 1918, when Elgar lived at Fittleworth in West Sussex. Disturbed by the war and ‘feeling out of sorts with modern life’, he composed this substantial work, involving far more than technical virtuosity.
Lydia Mordkovitch and Julian Milford acquit themselves well, and the recorded sound allows the balance between the two players to be projected particularly naturally. Phrasing is sensitively shaped, while in the slow movement, the music associated with Elgar’s beloved ‘Windflower’ (Alice Stuart Wortley) is particularly beautiful. The enigmatic finale was another tribute to a friend, following the death of Marie Joshua, the work’s intended dedicatee. Mordkovitch is assured here too, though perhaps the music has more poetry than she finds.
The collection of smaller items is enjoyable too. Some, like Salut d’amour and Chanson de matin, are celebrated examples of Elgar’s salon style; but others, including a splendid arrangement of the early orchestral Sursum corda, offer some rewarding discoveries. Again the Mordkovitch-Milford partnership is persuasive.
Nigel Kennedy’s Elgar recital, with pianist Peter Pettinger, features similar repertoire, but since there is some variety between the two discs among the smaller items on offer, the enthusiastic Elgarian will want both. However, in the Sonata it is Kennedy who gains the recommendation. His performance has an epic sweep, which captures the music’s full range of moods, with more fire in the first movement, more breadth in the Romance. Terry Barfoot