The compositional inertia for English-born composer Benjamin Dale was, like most others at the time, greatly interrupted by the onset of the First World War. Prior to that time, however, he enjoyed a near-celebrity status for his extant output, which included several works for the viola. Few composers at the time were writing specifically for the instrument, but Dale's close association with violist Lionel Tertis helped him quickly become skilled at writing for the instrument and several commissions were to follow. This album contains Dale's complete works for the viola, performed by Roger Chase and pianist Michiko Otaki. Interestingly, Chase plays on the Montagnana viola previously owned by Tertis. Listeners will at once notice Dale's skill at writing for the viola as he almost exclusively focuses on the viola's strengths and only rarely makes purely virtuoso demands on the instrument that may call out its shortcomings. The scoring for the piano is ideally thin so as not to compete with the viola, but never appears to be frail or weak. Chase's performance is absolutely first-rate. His tone is dark and powerful, his technique (especially the right arm) is impeccably clean, and intonation -- save for a few spots in the higher registers -- is precise. Chase also demonstrates a profound sense of musicality, particularly in the remorseful Romance of the Op. 2 Suite and the Lento introduction to the Op. 4 Phantasy. Viola fans will absolutely want this album in their collection, and listeners who may have misconceptions about the viola's ability to stand as a solo instrument will have their doubts cast aside.
AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|Suite for viola & piano, Op. 2|