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Track(s) taken from CDA67969

Violin Sonatina

1924; dedicated 'To Millicent'

Lawrence Power (violin), Simon Crawford-Phillips (piano)
Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Studio Master:
Studio Master:
Recording details: December 2012
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Matthew Dilley
Engineered by Ben Connellan
Release date: June 2014
Total duration: 16 minutes 9 seconds

Cover artwork: Track by Charlie Baird (b1955)


'This recording widens our horizons, revealing the thoughtful, technically brilliant and cosmopolitan musician that Benjamin’s friends and students in London, Canada and his native Australia always knew him to be … whether playing his viola or violin, Lawrence Power is in total sympathy with Benjamin’s shifting moods, and Simon Crawford-Phillips proves a lithe and responsive piano partner. A bouncy recording and excellent inlay notes offer more inducements for listeners to discover that the Jamaican Rumba man, composer of five operas and a powerful symphony, was far from a one-trick pony' (BBC Music Magazine)» More

'Lawrence Power, our leading viola player, comes to [Benjamin's] defence by recording Benjamin's work premiered by previous greats, Lionel Tertis and William Primrose. He switches to the violin for the formidably difficult Sonatina and the delightfully quixotic Three Pieces for Violin and Piano, before he and Simon Crawford-Phillips settle the argument with the profound Viola Sonata of 1942' (The Observer)» More

'Power (b1977) is perhaps the outstanding British instrumentalist of his generation, and not only a viola player but, as this disc richly demonstrates, a violinist, too … Power’s viola sound has a notable seductiveness, a sort of electric sweetness, but his genius for phrasing is as effective in Benjamin’s 1924 Violin Sonatina (more substantial than the title suggests) as in his searching 1942 Viola Sonata, the focus here. A virtuosic arrangement by the sonata’s dedicatee, William Primrose, of Benjamin’s 'hit', Jamaican Rumba, ends the sequence' (The Sunday Times)» More
The Violin Sonatina is, like the Three Pieces, dated ‘Beare Green 1924’; it is dedicated ‘To Millicent’ (possibly Millicent Silver, who though later renowned as a harpsichordist began her career as a pianist and violinist). The diminutive generic title is perhaps hard to justify. This ambitious, virtuosic and formidably accomplished work is neither a ‘little’ nor a particularly ‘light’ sonata (perhaps the lack of a slow movement was felt to debar it from full sonata status). Overall the Sonatina traces a tonal course from B minor to B major. The spacious and sometimes ecstatic first movement begins with a peaceful, evocative melody, beautifully adapted to the prevailing 5/4 time, over a calmly undulating figure in the piano. A more skittish triplet motif forms a transition to a sonorous, grandly melodic second subject, first heard on piano and taken up by the violin against a bell-like ostinato in the pianist’s left hand. A passionate development section puts these ideas (and others that arise along the way) through some strenuous paces before the movement subsides to a serene close that recalls the opening theme.

Benjamin entitled his E major middle movement Scherzo di stile antico, but there is little that immediately strikes the ear as archaic in this very rapid scherzo that skitters its way above a single nagging repeated bass note. Perhaps he was thinking of the more or less strict canonic imitations (an ‘antique’ discipline) between the violin and the piano’s right hand. The romantic tune of the trio section turns itself after a while into a suppressed waltz; the scherzo returns, deftly abbreviated.

The finale is a good-natured rondo with a rather French-pastoral main tune. Very soon, however, the basic 3/4 time changes to 5/4 and the first movement’s opening idea is briefly heard; indeed the episodes of this rondo tend to reveal reminders of the first movement, often intermingled with the rondo theme as if through a mysterious osmosis. The movement drives towards its conclusion with increasing brilliance, rising at last to a cadenza-like outburst from the violin marked con summa forza ed ectasia (with fullest force and ecstasy) before the decisive final bars.

from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2014

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