British Violin Sonatas Vol 1
Howard Ferguson’s oeuvre is modest in extent but distinctive in character. His Second Violin Sonata of 1946 is concise and strongly argued, and Little and Lane give a fine performance, relishing the rhythmic drive of the outer movements – extending even to a touch of savagery at the start of the finale – while achieving a beautiful air of tranquillity in the more introspective music. The excellent performance recorded at the 1960 Edinburgh Festival by Myra Hess and Isaac Stern sounds more incisive in places (partly on account of the drier, mono recording) and the second movement more of a true Adagio – but this new account is a worthy successor.
Walton’s Sonata is nearly contemporary with the Ferguson and shares its strongly tonal language while being more expansive and sensuous. This performance is finely paced, with a sense of momentum that allows the listener to appreciate Walton’s mastery of large-scale form, and Tasmin Little’s full, expressive tone seems ideally suited to the work’s sinuous melodies. It’s fascinating to compare this performance with the 1954 recording by Max Rostal and Colin Horsley – they concentrate on the detail, bringing to our attention all sorts of beautiful moments, but lack Little and Lane’s powerful feeling for the larger picture.
The Britten Suite is one of the more neglected of his early works. The ‘March’ and the ‘Waltz’ may not take us beyond clever, playful satire but the ‘Moto perpetuo’ and the ‘Lullaby’ have more solid musical worth, and one can welcome with pleasure such a spirited, well-judged performance.