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Bridge • Rebecca Clarke 
• Vaughan Williams

Natalie Clein & Christian Ihle Hadland (Hyperion)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
CD_CDA68253_Clarke_cmyk

Bridge Serenade; Spring Song; Scherzo; Cello Sonata; Rebecca Clarke Viola Sonata; Vaughan Williams Six Studies in English Folk Song
Natalie Clein (cello), Christian Ihle Hadland (piano)
Hyperion CDA 68253   60:07 mins

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Rebecca Clarke’s Viola Sonata – her version for cello is the one played here – is a heatedly rhetorical work, full of a perfervid intensity that at times recalls Clarke’s contemporary Scriabin. Its opening movement seethes and surges in Natalie Clein’s performance, moving in sweeping arcs of emotion. The middle movement spits and snaps, and you feel the visceral rasp as Clein digs deep into the strings seeking maximum purchase. The huge tremolando crescendo in the finale has an elemental quality in Clein’s and pianist Christian Ihle Hadland’s hands. It’s arguable that they add a little too much heat to a work that is hot enough already. The slightly over-wrought, claustrophobic impression is exacerbated by close microphone placement, and there is a good deal of performer sniffing (Clein, presumably?) to put up with.

Frank Bridge’s Cello Sonata inclines more to rhapsody than rhetoric, and draws particularly heartfelt playing from Clein and Hadland in the lingeringly regretful opening of the second movement. Three short salon pieces by Bridge provide a relaxed counterpoint to the sonatas. Clein lends a winning lilt to the charming Serenade, and the Scherzo froths with wit and energy. Vaughan Williams’s Six Studies in English Folk Song may seem to have been tacked on as a footnote, but in fact these brief arrangements of folk tunes have an uncluttered directness of expression which is unexpectedly poignant. The arrangements elicit from Clein and Hadland a vein of poised, eloquent poetry, and in the concluding ‘As I walked over London Bridge’ a sparky sense of mischief.

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Terry Blain