Violin Sonata Composed at Gallipoli Opens Concert

United KingdomUnited KingdomEnglish Music Festival 2015 – Kelly, Matthews, Alwyn, Parry:  Rupert Marshall-Luck (violin) and Matthew Rickard (piano), Dorchester Abbey, Dorchester-on-Thames, 23.5.2015 (RB)

 Frederick Septimus Kelly: Sonata in G major for Violin and Piano (“Gallipoli”)
Stephen Matthews: Sonata for Violin and Piano op. 130
William Alwyn: Sonatina
C H H Parry: Sonata in D major for Violin and Piano


The Saturday morning Abbey concerts by Rupert Marshall-Luck and Matthew Rickard are a fixture although last year we had the remarkable Duncan Honeybourne in a solo piano recital. This year Marshall-Luck and Rickard gave us four rare British works and ensured they were each presented as uniquely treasurable.

The first of these was Frederick Septimus Kelly’s Violin Sonata. This was written in a tent in Gallipoli in 1915 while Kelly was serving as a member of the Royal Naval Division. This work has only recently emerged from among the papers of the violinist Jelly d’Aranyi. The first movement proved to be a singing Dvorakian flood from which ideas emerge that suddenly grip the listener. The piano seems almost subservient to the violin and its writing either adopts a Beethovenian patter or seems to function as a Mozartean homage. The second and third movements were played without a break. The music begins with something that is part Lark-ecstatic and part elegiac-serenade. This is more modern and less classical than the first movement but the unstoppable lyricism of that movement returns at the close.

Stephen Matthews was born in 1960 and by 2008, the date of his violin sonata, had already reached op.130. The sonata was written for Rupert Marshall-Luck. The palette here is wide and accommodating. Modern techniques are adopted yet the music communes easily with the listener. The work begins memorably with a whispered shuddering as the bow scuds slowly and deliberately across the strings. There then follows a long melancholy melody which partakes of both Shostakovich and Pärt – chilly serenade. The second movement is articulate and effusive with Kreislerian affection. There is no obstacle to communication here – none whatsoever. In this short movement I was at times reminded of the nostalgic dances of Barber’s Souvenirs. In the finale that scudding note pattern returns but with the same notes played fully bowed. It rises to a no-holds-barred long joyous tune. One hopes that this remarkably attractive and inventive work will be widely taken up.

After the interval we encountered some early Alwyn. Nothing here of the post-war Alwyn of the five symphonies. The Sonatina might just as well have been called a suite for it comprises three characteristic episodes in which a delicious melody sails by like a butterfly on a summer breeze. That episode ends on a pleasingly slow and steady downward stroke of the bow into silence. The second movement is something of a nocturne in language that is height of British 1930s romance. The finale is light and also engaging.

The Parry sonata seems to date from the early 1890s. It is a full-on piece of Brahmsian romanticism with the two instruments pari passu. Each goads the other on to new heights of romance. The Andante is one of sustained grace and has a calm mien. It ends with a Mahlerian ‘ewig’. The finale stirs the listener with yet more romance and with lightning strikes from the piano criss-crossing the sky. The sonata ends pell-mell and references material from the first movement.

Rob Barnett

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