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Holbrooke: Violin Sonatas No. 1; Violin Concerto "The Grasshopper"; Horn Trio / Peacock, Smith & Stevenson

Album Summary

>Joseph Holbrooke : Sonata for violin & piano no 1, Op. 6a ("Sonatina")
>Joseph Holbrooke : Trio for horn, violin & piano in D major, Op. 28
>Joseph Holbrooke : Sonata for violin & piano no 2, Op. 59 ("The Grasshopper")
>Joseph Holbrooke : L'Extase, for violin, horn & piano, Op. 55/2 (from "Mezzo-Tints")
Performers Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Holbrooke is a fascinating and important figure in British music. His Violin Sonata No. 1 - also called a Sonatina - is a bright, engaging and light-hearted work that owes something to his interest in popular song. His Violin Concerto, subtitled 'The Grasshopper', was published in full score and in two versions for violin and piano - including a 'sonata' version with a somewhat technically less demanding final movement. In this recording we present the original 'concerto' version. This beautiful work, admired by the great critic Ernest Newman, is full of lyrical freedom, and also some coruscating technical demands. The Horn Trio took Brahms's similar trio as a precedent, and is a work of great dignity and melodic appeal.

Kerenza Peacock is the first violinist of the Pavão String Quartet, founded in 1998 at the Royal Academy of Music. The quartet has toured the United Kingdom and abroad and has made two acclaimed commercial recordings.

"His Second Sonata is a violin and piano version of the Violin Concerto, ‘The Grasshopper’, and uses the keyboard in a robust way to recreate the small orchestra Holbrooke requested. In every sense it works extremely well as a Sonata, and was Holbrooke’s riposte to overblown concertos fashionable at the time. Let me make no exaggerated claims, but much on the disc is worth of your attention. Throughout Robert Stevenson has been a caring and excellent pianist; Mark Smith a forthright horn, and young Kerenza Peacock a sweet toned violinist on a loaned Stradivarius." -David's Review Corner

Fanfare
The disc's sound is clear and the instruments are individually well placed. Kerenza Peacock plays the Crespi Stradivarius from 1699, which has a radiant tone but still blends well with the horn and the piano.

Classical Lost and Found
The recordings were made in Menuhin Hall, Surrey, England, which would appear to be wood-paneled. This probably helps explain the magnificent sonics, which project a soundstage commensurate with these small chamber groups in an ideally reverberant acoustic. All of the instruments are perfectly captured and balanced, except for a couple of spots where one might want Ms. Peacock a bit more in the spotlight. Silky violin tone, a honeyed horn, and immaculate well-rounded piano sound make for a demonstration quality disc.

The Strad
Joseph Holbrooke (1875 - 1958) is best remembered, if at all, for his Wagner-aping cycle of Celtic music dramas, but he was prolific in all fields of music. These chamber works reveal what pianist Robert Stevenson admits in his booklet note as the composer's lack of a distinctive compositional voice. The trio for horn, violin and piano has obvious Brahmsian precedent but little of the German composer's stylistic distinction, and there's nothing notably "English" about the music of the violin works. The best comes in the concerto, a work that exists in versions with piano and with orchestra, and also in a simplified alternative as a sonata. Kerenza Peacock, violinist with the Paveo Quartet, makes a good case for the piano-accompanied original, and demonstrates real panache and determinedness in the plethora of double-stopped passages as well as a nimbleness that copes well with the jumping lines that give the work its "Grasshopper" nickname. Elsewhere, the First Violin Sonata rather struggles to rise above the level of the salon, though Peacock tends to its melodies lovingly. The Horn Trio, too, offers her plenty of moments in the limelight, but the material is stronger and inspires slick ensemble work with the horn player Mark Smith and the agile Stevenson. The sound feels a bit dry but there's a gain in clarity.

Gramophone
All the performances are of a high standard, often brilliant and imaginative, and I was particularly impressed with Kerenza Peacock's lithe, elegant violin-playing and her easy conquest of the virtuoso demands of The Grasshopper.

Concerto.Net
Each selection is quite unique. Violin and piano are played in concert with exception of the Horn Trio which includes the shining display of Mark Smith's brass craftsmanship.

Musical Pointers
A well produced and very fully documented release which will tell you all you'll need about Joseph Holbrooke (1878 - 1958), a now nearly forgotten composer whose pleasant enough music was occasionally championed by Beecham in my younger days.

Records International
As the pianist-notewriter points out, we don't have enough Holbrooke on disc to say what he "sounds like"; there are strong influences of Brahms in his early mature period just after 1900, he was able to write (and wrote a lot of) singable melodies which appear both in his serious and "light" music while a couple of pieces yet to be heard performed have "Oriental" subtitles. You won't often find over eight pages of notes in a Naxos release but you will here, as Stevenson provides biography, contemporary commentary and his own detailed notes on each of the pieces recorded here, all of which are approachable, melodic, sometimes virtuosic and which will eventually help us to say what Joseph Holbrooke sounds like.

MusicWeb International
Naxos has to be congratulated on this excellent CD. For far too long Josef Holbrooke's music has been ignored. Over the last ten years or so a few pieces have begun to appear in the record catalogues. ... there is a huge catalogue of music waiting to be explored, including some eight operas, a variety of concertos, eight symphonies, a number of orchestral pieces and a great deal of chamber works. These last two groups have been explored on CD.

MusicWeb International
All three players are far from cautious and radiate all the out and out commitment these scores invite. Robert Stevenson is a fine pianist and his playing - and that of his colleagues - reflects his sympathy, sensitivity, skill and enthusiasm in these unknown scores. The music and its playing will gratify and surprise.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Menuhin Hall, Cobham (01/04/2011-01/06/2011).



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Works Details

>Joseph Holbrooke : Sonata for violin & piano no 1, Op. 6a ("Sonatina")
  • Performers: Kerenza Peacock (Violin); Robert Stevenson (Piano)
  • Notes: Menuhin Hall, Cobham (01/04/2011-01/06/2011)
  • Running Time: 19 min. 39 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic

>Joseph Holbrooke : Trio for horn, violin & piano in D major, Op. 28
  • Performers: Kerenza Peacock (Violin); Mark Smith (Horn); Robert Stevenson (Piano)
  • Notes: Menuhin Hall, Cobham (01/04/2011-01/06/2011)
  • Running Time: 26 min. 24 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Form: Chamber Music

>Joseph Holbrooke : Sonata for violin & piano no 2, Op. 59 ("The Grasshopper")
  • Performers: Kerenza Peacock (Violin); Robert Stevenson (Piano)
  • Notes: Menuhin Hall, Cobham (01/04/2011-01/06/2011)
  • Running Time: 24 min. 33 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic

>Joseph Holbrooke : L'Extase, for violin, horn & piano, Op. 55/2 (from "Mezzo-Tints")
  • Performers: Kerenza Peacock (Violin); Robert Stevenson (Piano)
  • Notes: Menuhin Hall, Cobham (01/04/2011-01/06/2011)
  • Running Time: 2 min. 56 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic