World premiere recordings of three sonatas by a leading Welsh composer
Naxos continues its commendable exploration of British music with these premiere recordings of William Mathias’s violin sonatas. Given the quality of the music, it seems extraordinary that no one has recorded them before. This is fair enough, admittedly, with the earliest one, a student work of 1952 that Mathias withdrew. It’s an accomplished piece, resting in a bed of sumptuous harmony and scattering its influences with abandon, and is given a warm and engaging performance by Sara Trickey and Iwan Llewelyn-Jones.
The two later works are more severe in style. The opening of the First Sonata is angular, tempered by a gentle central section and followed by a strange middle-movement Lento, at once restless and relaxed, weaving minor thirds into sinuous lines, beautifully sustained by Trickey. The mood holds into the opening of the finale before a long downward portamento heralds a jaunty finale, performed with rhythmic élan and finesse by both players, whose teamwork and mutual sensitivity is superb throughout.
The Second Sonata presents substantial challenges to which the players respond admirably. The spirit of Shostakovich is never far away, with spectral quotations of his ‘DSCH’ motif. The broad, sparsely written central Adagio is beautifully sustained and subtly coloured. The acoustic brings a bloom to the violin, although the piano tends to jangle. Still, this is a fine CD and long overdue.