BRIDGE Cello Sonata CLARKE Viola Sonata
Hands up: I hadn’t realised that Rebecca Clarke had authorised a cello version of her much-recorded Viola Sonata, although it has in fact been recorded by at least two cellists. But still, I suspect that this beautifully produced recital from Natalie Clein and Christian Ihle Hadland will be many listeners’ first encounter with the cello version of this superb work, and I strongly suspect that they’ll be as impressed by it as I was.
The sonata reveals several new facets when played on the cello, the principal one being the new depth and physicality of the sound world. Clein makes the most of that, with a tonal palette that ranges from thick charcoal-black to muted pastels, beautifully controlled and shaped in the service of Clarke’s ardent musical narrative. The first movement is headed Impetuoso and throughout this disc Clein and Hadland never stint on commitment.
In the second movement of Bridge’s wartime Cello Sonata, for example, the transition from uneasy calm to jagged, angst-ridden turmoil and on to soaring, impassioned lyricism is handled with poetry and passion. Clein is never afraid to let you hear the rasp of bow on string, and Hadland, too, knows how to make a climax thrillingly sonorous without overwhelming his partner.
Around these two imposing central performances, the pair unerringly find the right atmosphere for each of the various miniatures by Vaughan Williams and Bridge; catching the wit of Bridge’s Scherzo and the lilt of his Serenade as well as the sense of lengthening shadows that lies behind all that melodic charm. The acoustic is lucid, natural and intimate: excellent booklet notes by Paul Hindmarsh and cover art by Eric Ravilious are simply the icing on the cake.