Ireland: Violin Sonata No. 1; Violin Sonata No. 2; Berceuse; Cavatina; Bagatelle; The Holy Boy

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COMPOSERS: Ireland
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Violin Sonata No. 1; Violin Sonata No. 2; Berceuse; Cavatina; Bagatelle; The Holy Boy
PERFORMER: Paul Barritt (violin); Catherine Edwards (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66853
The Ireland sonatas, with their heartwarming melodies, must surely rank among the most appealing in the British repertoire. The First Sonata (1909) is warmly Romantic, quietly introspective and poignant. The Second is tougher and more vigorous but with a radiant, affirmative slow movement. Composed during the First World War, it is deeply felt, even angry. It caught the mood of the time, and was a sensational success. Barritt and Edwards strike a nice balance between the virility and the grace and delicacy of the music. They adopt a strong pulse, propelling the music forward to suit its more assertive moments. But you cannot hurry Ireland. I would turn, therefore, to Lydia Mordkovitch and Ian Brown on Chandos for their more spacious, more poetic readings. Their playing has greater subtlety and contrast, especially in their depiction of the almost supernatural atmosphere surrounding places associated with an ancient past, at the heart of the First Sonata’s Romance.

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Peter Racine Fricker’s First Sonata (1951) comes from that period when Romanticism was held in contempt. It is hard-headed, interesting harmonically, but devoid of emotion. His Second Sonata (1986) admits some warmth and humour in the early movements before crashing chords in the incongruously titled Andante cantabile hammer all humanity into cold meanderings. The late (1954) Vaughan Williams Sonata has all the composer’s usual pastoral and mystical fingerprints; like his Ninth Symphony, it recalls earlier works. And Rawsthorne’s inventive Sonata is a little gem. The gently nostalgic Allegretto, with its rippling figures and dance rhythms, and the sweetly melancholic Epilogue are irresistible. Stanzeleit and Jacobson give powerful, virtuoso performances of the widely contrasted pieces.