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Gipps • Spain-Dunk: Violin Sonatas etc

Patrick Wastnage (violin), Elizabeth Dunn (piano) (Guild)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Gipps • Spain-Dunk
Gipps: Violin Sonata, Op. 42; Rhapsody, Op. 27a – Andante; Evocation, Op. 48 – Andante; Spain-Dunk: Violin Sonata in C minor; Violin Sonata in B minor – Romance; Les Sylphes
Patrick Wastnage (violin), Elizabeth Dunn (piano)
Guild GMCD7827   58:31 mins

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Two British woman composers, both born in seaside towns on England’s south coast, both represented here in useful premiere recordings of music for violin and piano. What differentiates them in this selection is the music’s quality and the circumstances of composition, with the younger, more combative Ruth Gipps, born in 1921, easily achieving a more personal voice and tighter grip over her gifts than Susan Spain-Dunk, born in 1880, was ever able to achieve. The purposeful tread of Gipps’s 1954 Sonata, with surprise shifts in mood and material effortlessly incorporated, ensures agreeable and sometimes arresting listening. Pleasures continue in its shorter companions, particularly the enigmatic Evocation of 1956, written for the émigré violinist Marta Eitler in the year of the Hungarian uprising. Vigorous and lyrical playing from Patrick Wastnage and Elizabeth Dunn only further emboldens Gipps’s imaginative flights.

Spain-Dunk’s musical horizons were notably more constricted. A critic in the 1920s noted that she ‘says a small thing cleanly, in a perfectly familiar style’. So she does, most cleanly of all in the sweetly appealing encore trinket Les Sylphes and Romance, the only movement surviving from a student-era sonata. It’s when she aims for bigger things, as in the Violin Sonata No. 3 (circa 1910), that her path gets muddier, with the violin’s lyrical impulses jostling against overworked piano writing and other signs of effort outdistancing inspiration. Wastnage and Dunn, however, never waver, and present all their excavations on this album (as they should) as if they love every single note.

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Geoff Brown