Collection - The English Viola - Eniko Magyar (Viola) - Tadashi Imai (Piano) COLLECTION - THE ENGLISH VIOLA - ENIKO MAGYAR (Viola) - TADASHI IMAI (Piano) - NAXOS 8.572407

This is the debut CD of the young Hungarian viola player Eniko Magyar. She could have opted for easier material to test the waters of the recording world, but instead chose to dive right into the deep end of the pool by recording the demanding Viola Sonata by Sir Arthur Bliss. The opening movement immediately puts demands on the soloist with its long sweeping phrases and nervous energy. Twists and turns abound throughout as the harmonic development takes many different paths before settling down at the end. All this boundless energy is very well put across by Eniko Magyar. In the slower second movement, she brings out the viola's rich and deep-toned qualities as well as its singing beauty in the highest registers. The following movement (Furiant: Molto Allegro) with its rapid fire energy and odd 6/16 time signature, would put any musician to the test, but Eniko just seems to thrill in the laborious demands, both technical and emotional, that the music commands. The Sonata ends with a dark and brooding Andante in which the soloist brings out the beautiful plaintive nature of the viola. One of Eniko Magyar's teachers was Martin Outram who has also recorded this work, which probably explains the ease with which she has mastered such a thorny and demanding piece of music.

The viola arrangement of the Frederick Delius Violin Sonata No. 3 follows and instantly the mood of the music becomes more lyrical, more relaxed and melodic. Surprising when you consider the conditions under which this work was composed. This piece was composed 4 years before Delius died, and was actually dictated for his secretary to annotate and write down, because by then the effects of syphilis had reached the point where he was paralysed and blind. But yet the music contains the typical pastoral beauty that comes naturally to Delius. Eniko Magyar demonstrates the music's flowing nature very well, with soaring lines and a glowing tone throughout.

The remaining six pieces on the disc are all short miniature pieces by Frank Bridge, and are far removed from the sound world of Arthur Bliss. These could all be used as 'encore' pieces following a recital, simply because of their pleasant, lyrical and melodic nature. They should not be considered 'light' fare though, as some of them, like Souvenir and Pensiero are perfectly matched to the viola's beauty by their melancholic style. All of these miniatures are played with sensitivity and passion by Eniko Magyar, and given the same importance as the more demanding works.

The deep and resonant sound of the viola is well captured and reproduced in this Naxos recording. Tadashi Imai offers strong support on the piano throughout every piece, and the booklet notes are very informative on the composers as well as the performers involved. All in all a captivating foray into the sound world of the viola, as seen through the eyes of English composers who have found a master exponent of their music in Eniko Magyar.

Jean-Yves Duperron