Girl With a White Parasol
Eric J. Matluck | Hackettstown, NJ United States | 03/01/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is a famous scene from "Citizen Kane," in which Mr. Bernstein, Kane's old manager, recounts to an interviewer how he once laid eyes on a girl on a ferry. She was dressed all in white, Mr. Bernstein says, and she was carrying a white parasol. He saw her just that once, and only briefly, but not a day had gone by since that he hadn't thought about her. What made this woman so special? He didn't know her, obviously. She wasn't even described as pretty. Yet she managed to linger in his mind.I thought of that while listening to this disc. There is nothing overtly "special" about the music: two well-crafted violin sonatas from the middle of the last century. Conservative, tuneful, and (frankly) easy to dismiss. But to dismiss either the music or the performances would be a shame, because there is an inner radiance, a life-enhancing quality to these works that I find irresistable.The First Sonata, which I favor by an inconsiderable margin over the Second, is the more relaxed and expansive of the two. Yet it never rambles. The first movement is particularly fine, opening with a beautiful melody that briefly flirts with bluesiness, and is succeeded by a more reserved but no less noble idea. The development is long and eventful and the recapitulation follows along regular lines. The second movement contrasts a rhapsodic opening melody with an animated, passionate one, and the finale begins with an adorable and memorable idea.The Second Sonata is cut along similar lines, but the writing here is a little more dense and elaborate. As a bonus, we are given two lovely works for violin and piano, the first an elegy with unmistakable echoes of the finale of Stanford's Fifth Symphony, and the second a restrained and effecting setting of the Salve Regina.The performances are utterly committed and the sound is top-notch. If you love the works of Stanford, Parry, and Bax, you're sure to find much to admire here. If you're afraid this is just going to be another disc of pleasant, well-made music but little more, give a listen then try to put it out of your mind for a while. Then see if it doesn't start to haunt you like that girl with the white parasol."