Vaughan Williams: Viola Fantasia – Suite for Viola and Piano; Romance for Viola and Piano; Six Studies in English Folk Song; Fantasia on Greensleeves; Fantasia on Sussex Folk Tunes; Four Hymns for Tenor, Viola and Piano

Reviewed on Fri 14 Jun, 2019

The highly-wrought miniature Romance finds Vaughan Williams at his most satisfyingly intense, Outram’s viola aching and bleak, Rolton’s piano limpid and wholly sympathetic.

Vaughan Williams aficionados will find much to enjoy in this compendium of pieces eloquently combining viola – the instrument closest to VW’s heart – with piano and tenor voice. Originally conceived with orchestral accompaniment, the extended, eight-part Suite’s varied emotional states are heightened by the viola’s pared-back partnership with piano, Martin Outram and Julian Rolton alert and sensitive to its lilting lyricism and shifting moods. The highly-wrought miniature Romance finds Vaughan Williams at his most satisfyingly intense, Outram’s viola aching and bleak, Rolton’s piano limpid and wholly sympathetic. Its lachrymose darkness is lightened by the aching, pastoral delicacy of the Six Studies in English Folk Song, although Walton Forbes’s arrangement of Greensleeves disappoints with its rather insipid tone. Outram’s take on his own arrangement of the Fantasia on Sussex Folk Tunes offers more pronounced ardency. Mark Padmore injects pleasing, plangent poetry into the longing poignancy of the Four Hymns. Outram’s excellent booklet notes and a well-framed recording add to the pleasure.
–Michael Quinn