On this well-recorded occasion The Lark Ascending (1914) comes with piano accompaniment – Vaughan Williams’s original version before orchestrating it. Jennifer Pike is sensitive on violin, rapturous, sometimes expressively free (as a bird), flowing upwards and forward, and Martin Roscoe brings plenty of character to the piano part: this account has both intimacy and wings, the orchestra not missed.
Of the duo-Sonatas, that by Elgar (1918, his Opus 82) is given an impassioned outing, striding forth from the off before settling agreeably into the nostalgic second subject, Pike and Roscoe at-one with the music’s ebbing/intense illustration, half-lights and soulfulness. Pike finds an extra layer of tone (a spoonful of honey) for the central Romance, its beauty and throwaway couplets, and Roscoe’s touch is at its gentlest, whereas the Finale, opening in amiable fashion, is explored by these performers for its reverie, fieriness and stoicism.
The Sonata (1954) by Vaughan Williams opens boldly, the first-movement Fantasia sustaining gravity for all the haunting cave-like recesses, but I wondered if the following Scherzo, marked Allegro furioso, could or should move a little faster to really underline its edgy gypsy/Slavic nature, but since the composer adds ma non troppo, I guess all is well. The Finale is a Theme and Variations, seminally potent and seamlessly sustained across the whole until a Lark-like fade and farewell, the highpoint of this Sonata. Chandos CHAN 20156.