Clare Howick / John Paul Ekins: Violin and Piano Recital

review british x1 cong

This CD from Howick (violin) and Ekins (piano) features music from Elgar, Bridge, Delius, and Scott, with Elgar (Violin Sonata and Mazurka) opening and closing the programme.

The Review Corner used to work in Malvern and tramping the hills on a windy autumn day, the wind blowing the top of the grass, was ideal for Elgar. Like the music, on one level the walks were a little gloomy: the Malverns were closing for the winter as the leaves fell from the trees, the grass yellowed, and the plants died back. On the other hand: it was the Malvern Hills, and they are glorious all year round. (The sonata was written in Sussex, but he’d have been thinking of the Wych Cutting as he wrote for sure).

Confirming how the music feels, the sleeve notes say that portions of the central Romance are “curiously unsettled and fragmentary”, and influenced by the “wood magic” of the Fittleworth woods, West Sussex. A one-bar phrase suggests tiptoeing through the woods.

Elsewhere, it’s all pretty similar, slightly austere but lively in places, and surprisingly modern sounding, too. We’d say it was largely salon music; it has a feel of intimacy and in places adopts an audience-pleasing sentimentality. If this was rock music, we’d say it was packed full of good riffs, too: there are lots of surprisingly good melodies that pop up throughout the CD.

Elgar is obviously good, but Frank Bridge’s Gondoliera is atmospheric and languid. Cyril Scott’s Bumble-Bees is ear-catchingly quirky and bee-like, and at just under a minute and a half does not outstay its welcome; it’s followed by Bridge’s regrettably short and jaunty Country Dance. An enjoyable album.

Out on Naxos, 8573790.

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