Benjamin (A): Violin Sonatina & Viola Sonata

Benjamin (A): Violin Sonatina & Viola Sonata

Lawrence Power (viola), Simon Crawford-Phillips (piano)


Lawrence Power is Britain’s greatest living viola player, the true successor to Lionel Tertis and William Primrose. Part of his mission is to perform and record music premiered by those masters of the previous century, including works by York Bowen, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Benjamin Dale, William Walton and, here, Arthur Benjamin.

Benjamin was one of the first Australian musicians to forge an international reputation. His creative output, which encompasses about eighty works altogether, manifests a great variety of idioms and genres. It includes a good number of light-music miniatures, many of them infused with a jazz or Afro-Caribbean flavour: the most famous of these is the Jamaican Rumba which concludes this album.

This album represents something of a departure for Lawrence Power’s recording career: he performs Benjamin’s Violin Sonatina on the violin. This ambitious, virtuosic and formidably accomplished work is not at all diminutive—perhaps the lack of a slow movement was felt to debar it from full sonata status.

Benjamin’s Viola Sonata is a wartime piece, with a first movement of dark foreboding. It manifests a spiritual affinity with the large-scale and often elegiac Symphony that Benjamin was about to begin composing, and it contains the bleakest and perhaps the most deeply felt music on the present album. It is an impressive, powerful and virtuosic work, with many technical challenges, all of which Lawrence scales with his usual astonishing prowess.

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