The Strad issue
Roger Chase (viola) Hannah Shaw (viola) Fiona Opie (viola) Thomas Beer (viola) Rumen Cvetkov (viola) Karel Coninx (viola) Michiko Otaki (piano)
According to Frederick Corder, his teacher at the Royal Academy of Music, Benjamin Dale (1885–1943) wrote ‘fewer and better works than any English composer of his generation’. During his years at the Academy, Dale was persuaded by Lionel Tertis to write for the viola (as were Arnold Bax, York Bowen and other talented students). Appropiately enough, the results are heard here played by a grand-pupil of Tertis on the Montagnana viola once owned by the great man: Roger Chase is completely at home in this music’s unashamedly Romantic idiom. He seems to use Tertis’s idiosyncratic fingerings most of the time (in spirit if not in letter), and their singing quality works entirely to the music’s benefit. The ‘endless melody’ of the Romance from Dale’s Suite op. 2 flows undisturbed (if a shade hastily), as if bar-lines didn’t exist. In the Suite’s outer movements, Chase meets the music’s outrageous demands head on (unfortunately, he plays an obvious misprint near the end), and Otaki supports him strongly, gallantly coping with the orchestrally conceived piano part.
If the 35-plus-minute Suite can seem long-winded, the one-movement, 20-minute Phantasy op. 4 offers a similarly sensuous but more concentrated experience. The Introduction and Andante op.5 for six violas was written for Tertis and his class. Some harmonic twists show that Dale well knew another recently composed string sextet: his piece might well be renamed ‘Verklärte Bratsche’. Chase leads five of his former students in a radiant, beautifully balanced performance. One gratefully notices another violist, Michael Ponder, wearing his producer hat for this lovingly presented recording.