Review by: David Vernier

Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 8

Whether or not you’ve ever considered the viola a suitable instrumental voice to create easy-listening music, the music and performances on this disc certainly qualify–and the viola’s naturally warm, reedy timbre lends itself nicely to 73 minutes of continuous, pleasant listening. It helps that the repertoire–all except for three pieces were written specifically for viola and piano–roams in a relatively serene landscape defined by lyrical melodies, lazy to moderate tempos, and luxurious fields of late-romantic, pseudo-impressionistic harmony. There are many lively moments to be sure, but the predominant atmosphere is calm, relaxing, even a bit on the melancholy side–although the disc’s title, Heartache, which happens to be the name of one of the selections, may be an unfortunate choice (after all, who wants a disc of “heartache”?)

The playing by violist Avril Piston is assured and accurate, and she fully captures the style with her flowing legatos and rich, well-centered tone. The works by Eric Coates, Frank Bridge, and Rebecca Clarke come off best–along with the Canto Populare excerpt from Elgar’s Overture “In the South”. The program would have been better off without Norman Fulton’s oddly out-of-place Introduction, air, and reel, which instead of a quirky, craggy character piece just sounds like a string of unformed ideas unmercifully rendered by a confused soloist. Its inclusion may have been a sincere attempt to recall music of a “forgotten” composer, but it doesn’t belong here. Nevertheless, Piston and pianist Shamonia Harpa make a fine team, keeping us listening through all 19 selections. The sound is a bit grainy, with occasional bits of distortion in louder passages.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:


Works for viola & piano by Eric Coates, Alec Rowley, Rebecca Clarke, Frank Bridge, Lionel Tertis, others -

  • Avril Piston (viola)
    Shamonia Harpa (piano)

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