COMPOSERS: Bridge,Bruch & Glinka,Glazunov,Kalliwoda,Schumann
LABELS: Black Box
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Romanze Ð The Romantic Viola
PERFORMER: Yuko Inoue (viola), Kathron Sturrock (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: BBM 1034
The Romantic Viola? The title will no doubt set orchestral musicians tittering merrily. But, as works like Walton’s Viola Concerto and Shostakovich’s Viola Sonata have proved, there’s plenty of potential expressive life in what Beecham called ‘this instrument of mixed sex, the hermaphrodite of the orchestra’. Some of the works recorded here – most strikingly Schumann’s Märchenbilder, Glazunov’s Elegy and Bridge’s Allegro appassionato – show how soulful the viola can be when it isn’t treated as a bass violin or an emasculated cello; and in the right hands, Glinka’s early Sonata reveals a surprising charm and elegance.
But ‘romantic’ isn’t the word I’d use to describe Yuko Inoue’s playing. She shapes the music well enough, and she has a strong, rounded tone – though once or twice intonation strays a little too close to the edge. But there’s something cold and mechanical about it all. The opening movement of the Schumann is dull and four-square, the finale more weary than melancholy. Elsewhere Inoue seems to be going through the motions rather than engaging with the heart of the music. Often I was more struck by what pianist Kathron Sturrock was doing, even though the recording pushes her well into the background. A final comment: the track-listing on CD back and booklet may be an arresting design, but the layout is confusing, and if your eyesight is less than perfect you’ll need a magnifying glass to read the timings. Stephen Johnson