The Strad Issue: January 2011
Description: Convincing performances that unearth some forgotten gems of English viola repertoire
Musicians: Matthew Jones (viola) Michael Hampton (piano)
Composer: Clarke, Walton, Bridge, Bax, Bliss, Vaughan Williams & Holland

With this realistically recorded CD, Matthew Jones and Michael Hampton – collectively known as the Bridge Duo – enter Naxos’s ongoing series of rare viola repertoire. OK, there isn’t much rarity about Rebecca Clarke’s Sonata, arguably one of the greatest pieces ever written for this instrument, or about Arnold Bax’s dark, misty Legend, but the CD does include a few obligatory world premiere recordings: Theodore Holland’s Suite in D major (an agreeable if not tremendously original piece), Jones’s own effective transcription (from the violin) of William Walton’s Canzonetta and Scherzetto, two neo-medieval morsels related to the music for Henry V, and lastly the piquant Intermezzo culled by Watson Forbes from Arthur Bliss’s Piano Quartet. The CD is completed by Ralph Vaughan Williams’s posthumously published Romance and some pieces by the duo’s eponymous composer, transcribed by Veronica Leigh Jacobs from violin and cello originals.

Clarke’s Sonata, the one piece that is available in several rival recordings, receives a refreshingly swift performance, with its first movement ‘impetuoso’ indeed, as marked; after a gossamer Vivace, the slow sections of the finale could have done with more breathing space, but this is a most enjoyable rendition. With uncommonly beautiful tone and consistently imaginative phrasing, Jones and his tried-and-true partner prove most convincing advocates of this attractive repertoire.

Carlos María Solare