LABELS: Sheva Contemporary
ALBUM TITLE: Viola Dolorosa: Seabourne and Britten
WORKS: Seabourne: Pietà; Britten: Elegy; Lachrymae
PERFORMER: Georg Hamann (viola), Akari Komiya (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SH 137
Himself a skilled viola player, the young Britten delighted in Brahms’s use of the instrument in chamber music. ‘What a marvellous craze for the viola Brahms had!’ he once declared, and adapted the Beethoven cello sonatas for the viola when just 16. Britten composed his Elegy for solo viola in 1930 while still at school and it was only following the composer’s death that these sketches were edited into a complete, titled work. Georg Hamann nonetheless gives an intense and committed account, before offering a yet more nuanced performance of the 1950 Lachrymae, here accompanied by Akari Komiya.
Peter Seabourne’s Pietà (2007) was partly inspired by the eponymous statues of Michelangelo and is a five-movement work for viola and piano. Seabourne’s expressive and accessible score chimes well with Britten’s lyrical works, and the rich tonal palette of Hamann’s playing is beautifully showcased in the work’s demanding viola line. Alas, a dry and ungenerous recording quality throughout fails to complement the depth and melancholy of this otherwise eloquent disc. Kate Wakeling