Fenella Humphreys and Nathan Williamson interpret Violin Sonatas by Pitfield and Carwithen

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COMPOSERS: Carwithen,Pitfield
LABELS: Lyrita
ALBUM TITLE: Pitfield * Carwithen
WORKS: Violin Sonatas; plus CW Orr: Minuet; R Orr: Serenade for String Trio; Scott: Sonnets; Delius: Legende; Young: Passacaglia; Ireland: Berceuse; L Berkeley: Elegy
PERFORMER: Fenella Humphreys (violin); Nathan Williamson (piano)


Lyrita’s ongoing series of English-music recordings has always featured an accomplished level of performance. This release involves something rather more than that; it’s truly worth hearing for Fenella Humphreys’s violin playing in its own right, which offers an exceptional blend of engaging personality, bombproof tuning,
and sophisticated tonal loveliness without a trace of narcissism that might detract. In the same way Nathan Williamson’s accompaniments display state-of-the-art suppleness and fluency, plus a degree of alertness that banishes any sense of the routine.

As usual with this kind of mixed-bag programming, some items have more substance and individuality than others, but there are no duds, and the strongest works are strong indeed. The Violin Sonata by the young Doreen Carwithen operates in terms of the standard English-tonal territory of its early-1950s vintage; it also has a sweep and scale indicating a far more striking creative personality than that of many of her more prominent colleagues. The other work that stands clear of the pack is Cyril Scott’s Two Sonnets, published in 1914, and responding with subtle awareness to the more advanced developments of that heady musical era: the first Sonnet, with its gently but insistently chromatic accompanying sequence of sixths, relates to Scriabin’s idiom in a way that English music of that vintage generally did not. Delius pundits will be interested, too, in his attractive and characteristic Légende – known in an orchestral version dated 1895, but not performed in this violin-and-piano format until 1915.


Malcolm Hayes