Elgar, Finzi, Walton

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COMPOSERS: Elgar,Finzi,Walton
LABELS: Nimbus
WORKS: Violin Sonata in E minor
PERFORMER: Daniel Hope (violin), Simon Mulligan (piano)
Daniel Hope’s excursion into early 20th-century English violin repertoire offers a strange mixture of works. There is the Elgar Violin Sonata of 1914, unarguably a piece of real stature that carries as much emotional weight as any of the symphonies. Hope delivers this piece with a clear yet rich tone – nothing is allowed to be immersed in an indulgent excess of bloom – and, helped by his pianist Simon Mulligan’s thoughtful and substantial contributions, with a sure sense of shape and weight. And there is an equally fine, unhurried reading of William Walton’s still neglected, deeply serious, complex and often boldly spare Violin Sonata of 1947-9, a work for which Hope expresses special admiration, boldly placing it above the Elgar on his own Aristotelian ladder of excellence. (Many would question the validity of any such chalk-and-cheese comparison.) But in between comes Gerald Finzi’s Elegy of 1940, a work surely not half as serene as Hope’s notes suggest. For all its admirable qualities, it lacks the import of either of the other works, so that the recital seems in consequence to sag a little in its middle. Yet that should not deter those who want a young man’s vision of the Elgar or the Walton from investing in this version. The choice otherwise, even for the Elgar, is surprisingly sparse, and Hope and Mulligan prove to be strong rivals to my benchmark recording for that work, Nigel Kennedy’s 1985 account with Peter Pettinger. Stephen Pettitt