Midori Komachi violin
Simon Callaghan piano 

Musikaleido MKCD 002 

Musikaleido is the personal recording company belonging to virtuoso violinist Midori Komachi. This CD of the Complete Works for Violin and Piano by Ralph Vaughan Williams spans much of his composing career.

At its heart are two very different works, one from relatively early on, The Lark Ascending (1914 – 1920), the other, the Sonata for Violin and Piano in A minor from much later (1954).  As a result, we hear two works whose impact on the listener are highly contrasting.

The Lark Ascending one of the composer’s most well-loved works, is instantly appealing. This, the original version for violin and piano, offers the most polished playing from the piano which suggests the background landscape, and equally from Midori Komachi’s violin soaring so freely aloft. At the same time the performance has a feeling of intimacy which draws you right into the music.

The Sonata though more challenging is equally satisfying. The first of its three movements, Fantasia, has the piano and violin developing its sonata themes more separately, followed by a piquant and often fiery Scherzo where the two instruments travel excitingly more hand-in-hand. In the final movement, Midori Komachi and Callaghan lead us attractively across its theme and intriguing variations.

The CD opens with Romance and Pastorale (1912 – 1914) which, in her informative programme note Midori Komachi writes, ‘these pieces stand as a significant prelude to ….. The Lark Ascending’. Wonderfully fluent, melodically and harmonically delicious, these two pieces are also instantly appealing.

To complete the programme, there are Six Studies in English Folk Song (1926). The tunes, with their names listed in brackets, have a definite melodic and rhythmic affinity, (you can source them from folk singers on the internet). The choice of tunes selected by Vaughan Williams brings a sense of wholeness to the work, but with varied tempo, different keys, and with harmonic and melodic working out between the two performers, he creates a delightful sense of fine balance between similarity and difference between the pieces. This CD presents music to instruct, but more importantly, to thoroughly enjoy.

Review by Alan Cooper