On Record: Rupert Marshall-Luck & Duncan Honeybourne – Elgar & Gurney: A New Light (EM Records)

Violin Sonata in E minor Op.82 (1918)
Salut d’Amour Op.12 (1888)
Chanson de Nuit Op.15/1 (c1889)
Chanson de Matin Op.15/2 (c1890)
Gurney ed. Marshall Luck
Violin Sonata in D major (c1918-19)

Rupert Marshall-Luck (violin), Duncan Honeybourne (piano)

EM Records EMRCD075 [73’39″]

Producer Rupert Marshall-Luck Engineer Oscar Torres

Recorded 29-30 March 2021, Wyastone Concert Hall, Wyastone Leys, Monmouth

Reviewed by Richard Whitehouse

What’s the story?

Rupert Marshall-Luck here continues his exploration of British music for violin and piano with this coupling of sonatas by Elgar and Gurney, the former performed in a new critical edition as prepared by the violinist and the latter receiving its first commercial recording.

What’s the music like?

The Violin Sonata was the first of a series of ‘chamber’ pieces Elgar wrote near the close and in the aftermath of the First World War, distilling his musical language while accentuating a pathos seldom far beneath the surface during his maturity. Outwardly traditional in overall design, none of its three movements is yet beholden to formal precedent. Thus, the opening Allegro alternates its subtly differentiated themes to halting and even uncertain effect; the Romance contrasts the flowing eloquence of its middle section with the restrained poignancy of those either side, while the final Allegro centres on an ardently expressive melody as this unfolds with increasing purposefulness toward a tersely decisive close. Marshall-Luck’s edition was published by the Munich firm of Henle in 1919, a century after the work’s first performance.

His Violin Sonata in D marks another stage in the reclamation of Ivor Gurney’s voluminous output. Composed near the start of that period between his discharge from the army and his admittance to a psychiatric hospital, it is less overt in its emotional intensity than the later E flat Sonata but more cohesive formally – due, in part, to Gurney’s advocate Marion Scott in having preserved a near-complete score as has subsequently been realized by Ian Venables. Despite its Allegro marking, the first movement is often understated in its expressive range and motivated more by tonal fluidity than by its rhythmic animation. The Scherzo exudes a capering humour complemented by the winsome poise of its trio, then the largely literal ‘da capo’ ends in teasing ambivalence. The Lento builds from its initial reticence to a climax of acute plangency before subsiding into regretful calm; after which, the Finale sets out with a renewed determination, offset by its elegant second theme and energized by its development, on the way to a coda whose resolution is the greater for its almost offhand sense of closure.

Placed between these sonatas are several of Elgar’s duo miniatures – Salut d’Amour with its effortlessly ingratiating charm, then the Chansons which make for an ideal diptych in terms of their respective pathos and ardency. Marshall-Luck plays all three with unfailing artistry.

Does it all work?

Pretty much. Comparison with his earlier recording of the Elgar (EM Records EMRCD011) finds Marshall-Luck more expansive in each movement, notably a finale that now has greater depth and insight. Here and in the Gurney, Duncan Honeybourne (most recently heard in a deeply impressive account of Frank Bridge’s Sonata on EMRCD070-71) contributes pianism as sensitive yet impulsive as this music requires and which adds much to the persuasiveness of these accounts. Hopefully the Gurney will go on to receive the public hearings it deserves.

Is it recommended?

Yes. The sound has the focus and clarity needed for this difficult medium, while Marshall-Luck contributes detailed overviews on each piece within the extensive booklet notes. As a programme it adds considerably to one’s appreciation of the music – ‘A New Light’ indeed.

Listen & Buy

For buying options, and to listen to clips from the album, visit the EM Records website. For more information on the composers, click on the names Sir Edward Elgar and Ivor Gurney – and on the performers, Rupert Marshall-Luck and Duncan Honeybourne

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.