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Carlos MarĂ­a Solare
The Strad, May 2013

Bradley performs all these pieces with quiet authority and a beautiful, finely chiselled dark sound. © 2013 The Strad Read complete review

Raymond Tuttle
Fanfare, January 2013

…this is a very worthwhile and enjoyable release. The music…is highly attractive, and the performances are strong.

…the works included here are nicely varied. Bainton’s sonata suggests a French influence, particularly from Fauré. It seems to me that this sonata, whose fascination never wanes, should have a more prominent place in the viola repertoire…

…there is so much to enjoy in [Sarah-Jane Bradley’s] playing that one gives up trying to describe it, and simply sits back, happily, to enjoy it. Pianist Christian Wilson, in addition to writing the bulk of the expert booklet notes, is a terrific asset in this program. It presents him significant technical challenges, but all are conquered with confidence. Recommended! © 2013 Fanfare Read complete review

Gil French
American Record Guide, November 2012

In this world premiere recording of the 22- minute Viola Sonata (1922) by Edgar Bainton (1880-1956) Sarah-Jane Bradley gives long-lined lyrical sweep to the music at every tempo, as Christian Wilson adds rich instrumental atmosphere with points of light in the treble and a full bass.

I cannot speak highly enough about Bradley and Wilson. These are two highly intelligent masters of their instruments who deeply feel the music at hand and respond with gorgeous playing. The engineers serve them up as equal partners and give the piano full tone from treble to rich bass. The liner notes are superb, giving a brief biography of each composer and then an analysis of each work that is concise and illuminating. © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review

Jeremy Dibble
Gramophone, November 2012

Sarah-Jane Bradley’s viola has a singing quality beautifully suited to this essentially ruminative, lyrical repertoire and Christian Wilson’s role as accompanist is most sensitively judged in allowing the plaintive viola to express its full range of plangent gestures. The Sonata (1922) by Bainton…is an impressive piece…splendidly shaped by Bradley. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, August 2012

…a substantial number of chamber pieces, some of which for viola and piano by British composers are sampled on this engaging recent Naxos release. Incidentally, two of the four works presented here are world premiere recordings indicated by “WPR” after their titles.

The concert begins with Edgar Bainton’s…three-movement sonata of 1922 (WPR). A rather dour work it may reflect emotional fallout from the composer’s experiences as a prisoner-of-war in Germany during World War I (1914-1918).

In the opening allegro [track-1] the viola first introduces a couple of contrasting melodies [00:04 and 01:37], followed by a sinuously restful (SR) idea [02:04]. These become the ingredients for an engaging modified sonata form movement.

The mood brightens a bit in the allegretto [track-2], which starts with a folkish-sounding theme for the viola [00:00]. The piano then introduces an animated version of it [00:47], and the two then alternate, giving us a combination slow-movement and scherzo.

A sense of foreboding pervades the opening of the finale [track-3], which begins with an insistent militaristic episode (IM) [00:00] having suggestions of SR [01:12]. This is followed by scurrying passages [02:25] that build to a triumphant IM-derived four-note motif (IF) [03:37]. The latter is restated several times and then the music pauses [04:30]. Subdued memories of IM follow, and the opening pattern repeats with a final IF-based coda [07:21] ending the sonata optimistically.

A real sleeper, you’ll find little known British composer Theodore Holland’s (1878-1947) Suite for Viola and Piano (1938) a welcome discovery. The first allegro [track-4] opens with an anxious idea [00:00] followed by a subdued pensive theme [00:38], both of which undergo a dramatic development. The following recap [04:03] initially captures the indifference of the opening measures, but ends elatedly.

The slow movement [track-5] is a romance with a couple of melodies exploiting the viola’s amorous lower registers—shades of James Friskin’s (1886-1967) Elegy…It couldn’t be farther from the virtuosic driven finale [track-6], which begins and ends with demonic passages for the viola bringing to mind the devil and his fabled fiddle. The subdued central section [01:28-02:33] seems to harbor hints of the Dies Irae [01:35], which adds all the more diabolism to this rarity.

A good friend of Lionel Tertis (see above), York Bowen (1884-1961) arranged…and composed many pieces for viola. We get a sample of the latter next with his Piece for Viola (WPR) [track7] written in 1960 just before his death. There’s a piety and resignation about this miniature that make it an ideal musical gravestone for a British composer deserving much wider exposure…

The disc concludes with what will be the main attraction for many, Sir Granville Bantock’s (1868-1946) romantically robust 1919 sonata entitled “Colleen.” A big-boned three-movement work, the opening allegro [track-8] starts with a jagged four-note riff (JF) [00:04] reminiscent of a motif associated with the Marschallin heard at the outset of Richard Strauss’ (1864-1949) Der Rosenkavalier (1911). It’s the seed for a series of lush thematic developmental transformations that make up this fetching movement.

The maestoso that follows [track-9] begins with a somber melody whose first few notes recall JF. This is expanded into a nostalgic lament with a brief sequence again recalling the Dies Irae [02:49] (see the Holland above). Despite isolated moments when it seems optimism might prevail, the movement ends longingly, and would probably be even more affecting had it been a couple of minutes shorter.

The final Vivace [track-10] is a real change of pace that begins with an Irish jig known as “Helvic Head.” This has a wistfulness perfectly suited to the viola [00:07], and is followed by the lovely distantly related Gaelic melody [02:36] “Colleen Dhas,” for which the sonata is named. Bantock works the two into a delightful Hibernian hoedown laced with hints of JF, concluding the piece in high spirits.

Violist Sarah-Jane Bradley and pianist Christian Wilson give inspired performances…highly sensitive without becoming romantic wallows. Ms. Bradley’s intonation is exceptionally pure with no hint of that queasiness frequently experienced with lesser violists.

The recordings, which were made in Henry Wood Hall, London, are audiophile and project an ideally proportioned soundstage in a warm acoustic. The duo is positioned just far enough forward to give clear sonic images of both instruments without being in-your-face. Ms. Bradley’s viola is beautifully burnished, and Mr. Wilson’s piano tone well-rounded with no sign of digital artifacts. © 2012 Classical Lost and Found Read complete review

John Terauds
Musical Toronto, July 2012

Two very talented, younger British musicians tackle gorgeous, neglected music by fellow Britons for a gorgeous, neglected instrument, the viola.

The viola really does get a bum rap. It can sing sweetly like a violin, while also plumbing the depths of emotion in its lower register, as full and juicy as a cello’s higher notes.

Violists may be the most common butts of jokes in the musical world, but Sarah-Jane Bradley can silence the lot with just a few strokes of her silken bow.

Paired with sensitive pianist Christian Wilson, Bradley elegantly lays out three great, meaty works and one sweet trifle from 20th century England.

The duo’s mix of power and sweetness does wonders for the three big pieces. Edgar Bainton, a composer best known for his church anthems, gets a world-premiere recording of his Sonata for Viola and Piano…It is followed by Theodore Holland’s…Suite in D for Viola and Piano and, the star of this disc, the…Sonata for Violin and Piano in F Major, subtitled “Colleen.”

Bantock, who taught and conducted as well, brings a powerful sense of structure to music that is at one sweet and serious, virtuosic and capable of deftly sketching a number of different moods, many inspired by Irish folksong and even a jig.

A brilliant little extra is a sweet…encore by York Bowen simply entitled “Piece for Viola.” This unpublished work gets the disc’s other world-premiere recording. © 2012 Musical Toronto Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, July 2012

The new and exciting generation of brilliant violists are turning our attention to the many works generated by the legendary viola virtuoso of yesteryear, Lionel Tertis. Following his death much of it fell into obscurity, not least the very name of the composer, Theodore Holland. Born in 1878, a student of London’s Royal Academy, he moved to Germany to study with Joachim. A successful life as a teacher at the Royal Academy followed, but his own compositions were looked upon as ‘old fashioned’. The Suite for viola and piano would reinforce that description, though the slow movement is notable for its comeliness and contrasts with an attractively busy allegro vivace finale. Edgar Bainton, now regarded as an Australian composer, was born in London and spent the first fifty-four years in England before emigrating to live and teach in Sydney. His viola sonata was intended for Tertis, but remained unperformed until Bainton’s daughter gave its premiere in 1942. It comes—in general terms—from the Vaughan Williams era, its outer movements having a restless quality, the busy piano part supporting long flowing viola melodies. This first recording does presents an important discovery. York Bowen was even more successful in having two fine viola sonatas performed by Tertis, and was writing, just before his death, an encore Piece for Viola, a charming snippet lasting under two minutes. Granville Bantock, was the most generally successful of the composers on the disc, the viola sonata from 1919 being a powerful work lasting over half an hour. Purely tonal, the piano plays a major role to underpin the rhapsodic viola. Much of the music here relies on the warm tonal quality produced by one of today’s leading performers, Sarah-Jane Bradley. Immaculate intonation and technique, she is partnered by an outstanding young pianist, Christian Wilson. Compared with many fashionable UK recording venues, the superb sound from London’s Henry Wood Hall is in a different world. © 2012 David’s Review Corner

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