So many stars

Sonatinas for violin and piano

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Catalogue Number: 5060192780826


Musings from Sibelius on his fondly remembered childhood inspire the title of this disc, So Many Stars, and his shimmering sonatina is at the heart of this fine collection of 20th- and 21st-century gems. Fenella Humphreys employs her customary imaginative flair and luminous palette of tone colours to tease the beauty out of a set of pieces that are compact in scale but not in ambition. The vague disquiet and melancholy of Lennox Berkeley’s Sonatina is gripping from the outset. Humphreys revels in its carefully nuanced light and shade, finely matched by eminent sensitivity from pianist Nicola Eimer. There are many wonderful moments. Touches of Ravel abound in Françaix’s Sonatine, particularly in the sparkling final movement, where Humphreys makes light work of its chimerical runs, melting away into gorgeous lyricism. A charismatic Sonata from British composer Cheryl Frances-Hoad is a revelation, from the viola-like richness and intensity of the opening movement to the dancing harmonics of the second. After the richly detailed beauty of the Sibelius comes scampering originality from Gordon Crosse, and finally the brittle romancing of Alwyn’s early Sonatina. Throughout the recorded sound combines warmth and immediacy with all the intimacy of a live performance, revealing Humphreys and Eimer at their stellar best. RECOMMENDED RECORDING (The Strad)

The slow movement of Lennox Berkeley’s Sonatina Op 17 from 1942 is a mere 37 bars in length and yet contains a whole universe of emotion, brilliantly captured by the violinist Fenella Humphreys and pianist Nicola Eimer in a hugely rewarding new recording entitled So Many Stars – not a reference to these undoubtedly stellar performers, but a quote from Sibelius: “My childhood sky is full of stars – so many stars.” The composer’s 1915 Sonatina is delightfully lighthearted, evoking a happy childhood that sparkled in his memory like a twinkling galaxy. It’s one of six sonatinas in this highly recommended collection on the Stone label, with beguiling examples from Jean Françaix, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Gordon Crosse and William Alwyn, each played with intense commitment by these two outstanding players, their love for this music evident in every bar. (Observer)

The playing by Fenella Humphreys and Nicola Eimer is superb. I can well understand why Crosse was so impressed. The recording of these six sonatinas is ideal. Nicola Eimer’s liner notes give all the required details to aid enjoyment … Finally, this is a well-chosen selection of music. I enjoyed every piece, and hope that the duo will revisit the British (and French) repertoire soon. (MusicWeb International)

Here is a unique and very welcome collection of Sonatinas for Violin and Piano, a genre often overlooked in our teeming world, with most of them (not necessarily the best) being by British composers … The recording quality is very fine, as is the playing of both of these gifted artists. This is an exceptionally well-planned issue, one which ought to find a place in the collection of any lover of music for violin and piano, and especially of British music (Classical Source)

Track listing
  1. Sonatina Op. 17 – I – Moderato (Berkeley)
  2. Sonatina Op. 17 – II – Adagio (Berkeley)
  3. Sonatina Op. 17 – III – Allegretto (Berkeley)
  4. Sonatine – I – Vivace (Françaix)
  5. Sonatine – II – Andante (Françaix)
  6. Sonatine – III – Thême Varié (Françaix)
  7. Sonatina – I – Quietly dignified (Frances-Hoad)
  8. Sonatina – II – Allegretto (Frances-Hoad)
  9. Sonatina – III – Lento (Frances-Hoad)
  10. Sonatina Op. 80 – I – Lento-Allegro (Sibelius)
  11. Sonatina Op. 80 – II – Andantino (Sibelius)
  12. Sonatina Op. 80 – III – Lento-Allegretto (Sibelius)
  13. Sonatina – I – Andante semplice (Crosse)
  14. Sonatina – II – Lament (Crosse)
  15. Sonatina – III – Caprice Finale (Crosse)
  16. Sonatina – I – Allegro e grazioso (Alwyn)
  17. Sonatina – II – Adagio (Alwyn)
  18. Sonatina – III – Vivace (Alwyn)