Review By Steven E. Ritter ,Fanfare,May 2010
This Naxos release has one name that serves as a connecting thread through all of these pieces—Lionel Tertis. Tertis (1876–1975) was one of the first violists to achieve international fame, and his name is legendary among string players. Arthur Bliss, who achieved much success in England after returning post-WWII, wrote and dedicated his viola sonata to Tertis, who served as the editor for the composition. The work is unsettled and slightly brooding in the first movement, albeit with a lovely middle movement and reckless one-legged jig in 6/16 time in the finale. Though it is a repertory item, I count only four recordings currently in the catalog, including one already out on Naxos as well, that of Martin Outram (Viola) and Peter Donohoe (piano), coupled
Delius dictated much of his last music to Eric Fenby—this third violin sonata is one of those pieces. However, Tertis made his own arrangement not long after and actually played it for the composer in 1932. The work is typical of this composer, uncertain, hesitant in places, followed by gloriously assured writing that belies any of the questions we might have had. Delius, aside from some of his more direct melodies, sometimes takes time to unfold his arguments, but they are always cushioned in glorious sonorities, and this sonata is no exception. I always question these sorts of transcriptions, especially those that go between violin and viola, but this one is sensational.
Finally, Frank Bridge. What we have here is a collection of miscellaneous pieces written for violin generally and transcribed for viola. Only two, Pensiero and Allegro appassionato were written for viola. But they are, in a word, gems. Melodically they are as entrancing as anything you are likely to hear from any composer—catchy, beautiful, and memorable. Though they don’t really make any sense in the order they are presented, it doesn’t matter, as you look forward to the next before the current one ends. Part of this is no doubt due to the fabulous playing of Magyar, an up-and-coming talent if ever there was one, whose technique is matched only by her formidable sense of line and structure—not to mention one of the fattest and chocolaty viola sounds I have ever heard, rich in overtones and gorgeously even across the entire spectrum. This is a Want List candidate for sure.