BERKELEY Music for Violin and Piano, and solo Violin
Here are two largely forgotten British violin-and-piano sonatas on one CD. It is an amazing rescue operation, since Berkeley regularly dismissed his own early music: written in his later twenties, these works again prove him wrong.
The First Sonata (1931) was played prominently in Paris twice in May 1932. The Second was premiered in London in 1933, with Orrea Pernal and Kathleen Long, and heard in Paris a week later with Robert Soetens and Jacques Février, when Le ménestral praised its ‘abundance and scope, both compelling and profound. A truly beautiful peroration crowns this passionate and strong work.’ That says it all and, unsurprisingly, was a far more enthusiastic response than the work got in London.
Both sonatas, each lasting under 18 minutes, are in three movements. What’s immediately apparent is the idiomatic writing for the violin, an instrument Berkeley didn’t play. His idiom derives confidently from Bach, Stravinsky and, of course, his teacher Nadia Boulanger. But Berkeley’s harmonic sense is subtle and personal, as the slow movements of both sonatas show. These vivid performances by Paley and Teniswood-Harvey are outstanding and make the best possible case for a full revival of their discoveries.
The Sonatina is a classic – Berkeley played the piano part himself and it’s the only commercial recording he made (Dutton, A/10). These players relish the diversity of the charming variations in the finale. The Elegy is a lovely melody, and in the solo violin pieces Berkeley avoids the aridity which often blights unaccompanied writing. A revelatory CD, well recorded and documented too.