Debussy: Violin Sonata; Delius: Violin Sonata; Ireland: Violin Sonata No. 1; Bax: Mediterranean (arr. Heifetz); Scott: Cherry Ripe, etc; Ravel: Vocalise-étude en forme de habanera, M.51 (arr. Heifetz)
Clare Howick (violin), Simon Callaghan (piano)
SOMM Recordings SOMMCD 0625 80:35 mins
Following their well-received album of British violin sonatas, Clare Howick and Simon Callaghan return with a curious but effective mix of French and British violin works. Delius, for all his time in France, actually sounds the least French. His Romantically ardent yet relatively lean and purposeful Violin Sonata, written in Paris 1892-93, could almost pass as a work by his friend Grieg. Howick and Callaghan give a warm, ebullient account of its joyous first movement, and in its yearning second movement – including a pentatonic theme recalling Delius’s sojourn in Florida – Howick provides a lovely singing yet luscious tone. Most impressive, though, is the finale, in which they effectively contrast its uncharacteristically reflective central episode with the following outpouring of passion.
After Cyril Scott’s somewhat bibulous ‘Cherry Ripe’ and salon-style ‘Valse Caprice’, both affectionately played, follows the Debussy Sonata, music more deeply felt yet much pared down in style. Here for once Howick’s tone is perhaps a little too rich: this is music needing lithe and quicksilver qualities, most particularly in the second movement, whose tumbling violin demisemiquavers here sound a touch effortful.
Howick and Callaghan, however, are absolutely attuned and on form for the sultry Ravel, and John Ireland’s vigorous yet passionate First Violin Sonata, a work which emerges here as a great and grievously overlooked masterpiece which deserves far more hearings. Heifetz’s Bax arrangement makes an attractive encore to this most enjoyable recital.