Deborah Pritchard The Heart
Edwin Roxburgh Sonata for Three
Simon Rowland-Jones Suite for two violas
John Alexander  a pale blue dot

Peter Mallinson & Matthias Wiesner violas
Evgenia Startseva piano 


The booklet supplied with this CD begins by refuting the idea that music for two of the same instruments is rare in musical history. Meridian have already released recordings of viola duos featuring Peter Mallinson and Matthias Wiesner. Today, with these same remarkable viola virtuosos, they introduce us to four 21st century composers who have written recent exciting works for two violas. Two of those also include piano played so deftly by Evgenia Startseva.                               

The Heart by Deborah Pritchard (b. 1977) has three movements the titles of which come from Old Testament quotations. This could be why the main theme that runs through all three movements has a modal feel, suggesting plainsong. However, Pritchard manages cleverly to marry a sweeping modernity with suggestions of the older musical style. Although that single theme is carried on throughout the work, there is exciting variety across Pritchard’s intertwining contrapuntal writing using so many contrasting viola voices.                                                                                                          

Sonata for Three by Edwin Roxburgh uses piano throughout his three movements. Evgenia Startseva’s icily brittle light fingered piano drives the tempi and rhythm of the whole work which is equally for all three performers as the title suggests. The outer movements are lively, while the middle movement though marked ‘Animato’ is sometimes beautifully languid. The whole is a most satisfyingly shapely sonata work.

Suite for two violas by Simon Rowland-Jones begins with a movement entitled ‘Bright, dancing’ almost as long as the other four movements together. The two violas have an animated conversation. In the following ‘Scherzo, do they fall out? Certainly in ‘Wildly’ they have a violent skirmish. ‘Mysteriously’ is just that, quite eerie. Finally in a playful finale, they seem to make friends, bringing this amazing work to a happy conclusion.

The final work on the CD is a pale blue dot by John Alexander. The title refers to a picture of the earth taken by Voyager 1 from four billion miles away. Alexander is concerned with the way we are treating the planet. The five movements in the work, three of which use piano as well as the viola duo, are the most deeply felt, even romantic music on the CD.

Review by Alan Cooper