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Joseph Magil
American Record Guide, March 2012

Here is a fine recital of music for viola with a couple of pieces that I had never heard before…It is a vigorous, mainstream modernist work in two movements… It is a conventional yet lovely, late-romantic work with an inward, meditative character. It is the kind of work I like to listen to late at night.

Sarah-Jane Bradley has a very clean technique and refreshingly accurate intonation for a violist… © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online

Mike D. Brownell, October 2011

Bradley’s program is not only well thought out and diverse, but demonstrates the viola’s abilities both as a virtuosic instrument and one capable of delivering beautiful melodic lines. Joined by pianist Anthony Hewitt, Bradley’s performances are admirable in many respects. Her playing is very calm and restrained; there are no moments when listeners are left gasping for air as the violist strains for large shifts or to make it to the end of difficult passagework. Her intonation is generally solid, her tone is warm and even across the range of her instrument., October 2011

Bohuslav Martinů’s 1955 sonata combines folklike melodies with considerable lyricism, mixing pungent and rhapsodic elements and using sounds from the wistful to the modern. Close cooperation between viola and piano is crucial here, and Bradley works very well with pianist Anthony Hewitt. Zoltán Kodály’s early Adagio (1905) can be, and is, played on violin or cello as well as viola, but its quietly intense romanticism sounds particularly moving when played with the sensitivity that Bradley brings to it. ErnÅ‘ Dohnányi’s Sonata in C-sharp minor is a bit of a throwback for this CD, since it is actually a violin work that Bradley has arranged for viola—not a piece originally written for her instrument. Dating to 1912, the sonata is in three movements that are played continuously. It combines romanticism with an effective cyclic structure that ends in a mood of nostalgia. As a composer, Dohnányi was strongly influenced by violinist Joseph Joachim, who in turn was influenced by Liszt in his own compositions, such as Hebrew Melodies. This is the only 19th-century work on this CD, dating to the second half of the 1850s, and it is deeply imbued with the spirit of the Romantic era. Based on Old Testament stories and Byronic poems, but without any specific notation about ways in which the music is intended to correspond to any particular tale or poetry, the three-movement work is mostly in minor keys—in which the viola’s tone is particularly apt—and ranges in mood from melancholy to pastoral simplicity. Bradley and Hewitt conclude this fine CD with George Enescu’s well-known Concertstück, which was written as a competition piece in 1906 and which very effectively combines the lyricism and virtuosity that together are the hallmarks of the well-played viola.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2011

The record industry has recently discovered the viola, with Naxos contributing some of the most interesting releases among the abundance of new issues. All the works here were originally composed for the instrument save for the Dohnányi which is played in an arrangement by the soloist. Such a transcription is not without the composer’s blessing, Dohnányi accompanying the violist, Lionel Tertis, in a London performance of the work. It certainly sits happily on the weightier instrument, often taking it into the warm resonance of the lower strings as the mood swings from happiness to a sad nostalgia. In three movements it offers enough to challenge solo technique without encouraging a virtuoso treatment. Martinů’s Sonata comes from the last years of his life and has the composer in a homesick folk idiom. Tonal and immediately attractive, it has an abundance of harmonic pungency. Still immersed in Germanic influences the young Kodály’s Adagio is laden with sadness. It was Byron’s poems based on biblical stories that inspired Joseph Joachim’s Hebrew Melodies, the three movements communicating the feelings of people in exile. Somewhat meandering in content it’s episodic nature has many moments of tender beauty. Composed as a competition test piece, Enescu’s Concertstucke is a real challenge of left-hand dexterity, linked with the need to create long flowing passages. Sarah-Jane Bradley, the viola of the much recorded Sorrel Quartet during its lifetime, and a member of the Leopold String Trio, plays a gorgeous viola from 1806 by Chanot, its rich and fruity tone immaculately played and with expressive musicianship. Many of the pieces call for an equal partnership from the piano admirably handled by Anthony Hewitt. Premiere league sound.      

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