The English Viola

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bliss,Bridge,Delius
WORKS: Bliss: Viola Sonata; Bridge: Pieces for Viola and Piano; Delius: Violin Sonata, No. 3 (arr. Tertis)
PERFORMER: Enikö Magyar (viola), Tadashi Imai (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.572407


Standards of solo viola-playing are so high these days that it’s no surprise to hear what Hungary’s Enikö Magyar can achieve with what used to be considered an underpowered instrument.

She extracts a near cello-like weight of tone; in the extreme top register, the fullness and purity of the sound is remarkable; and wherever possible, she finds a lovely range of light and shade. In fact she has more to offer than, frankly, 

Bliss’s Sonata does. Written for Lionel Tertis in 1933, the work has the kind of prolix relentlessness that gives even a player of this class little room to do much with it. Tadashi Imai, elsewhere an exemplary accompanist, is also reduced to moments of near-insensitivity.

Delius’s quite short Sonata is a much more substantial and individual creation, giving Magyar the scope to respond with playing of grace and loveliness – as she also does in Bridge’s collection of seven viola pieces, although among these, only ‘Pensiero’ offers more than the kind of triteness with which this genre of English not-quite-salon music is bedevilled.


The recording’s impressive sonic range seems over-wide: Magyar’s fine musicianship doesn’t need this kind of exaggerated boost. Malcolm Hayes