Elgar, Bridge

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Bridge,Elgar
LABELS: Lowri
WORKS: Violin Sonata in E minor, Op. 82 (arr. Blake)
PERFORMER: Lowri Blake (cello), Iwan Llewelyn-Jones (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: LOWRI 2000 (distr. 020 8660 7877; www.lowrirecords.com)
Lowri Blake’s recording of the Bridge Cello Sonata, one of his most questioning and introspective small-scale works, joins eminent company. This performance attains neither the interpretative flair that Steven Doane and Barry Snyder evinced in their fine 1994 collaboration (Bridge), nor the huge expressive range captured by Rostropovich and Britten’s volatile 1968 Snape account (Decca).

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Blake and Llewelyn-Jones obviously share deeply held affections for the work, but they sometimes destroy its symmetry and linearity by taking a fragmented, episodic view. You’re left feeling that the eloquent Adagio might be the product of numerous takes, and there are technical slips elsewhere from both players, periodic energy lapses and insufficient care over dynamic gradation in the opening Allegro.

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Lowri Blake’s cello transcription of Elgar’s Violin Sonata succeeds to a degree, and it’s sympathetically realised here. But not every voicing and registral problem is solved by simply lowering the violin part an octave. Where Delsart’s familiar reworking of César Franck’s Sonata is entirely cellistic, Blake’s revision (especially of the Romance) sometimes pushes the idiomatic credibility of Elgar’s original beyond sensible bounds. It’s unlikely to enter the repertoire, then, but Blake’s attempt shouldn’t be written off, considering the touching naturalness of her performance. Michael Jameson