Light Music for Viola in Doncaster

by Philip Scowcroft

     The Viola is, perhaps wrongly, regarded as the Cinderella among stringed instruments. I have always felt that its mellow qualities make it ideal for what we call light music. There was an opportunity to put this feeling to the test in a Doncaster lunch hour concert on the 16th of January this year by violist Emma Sheppard and pianist Julian Jacobson.

     Their programme was varied, but consistently full of gorgeous melody. It started with two groups, each of four pieces, the first by Robin Milford and the second by Howard Ferguson, the latter ending with a Burlesque, which was an Irish Reel. Lionel Tertis, viola player and crusader for his instrument contributed Three Sketches, which may at one time have been teaching pieces, but also made for effective concert works.

     Next up was the unfamiliar name of Christobal Baxendale, an English violist of the early 20th Century, with a wistful Plaintive Melody (circa 1952). Eric Coates needs no introduction here and First Meeting, published for violin, reminded us that he played the viola in symphony orchestras in his younger days. In the Lake Country, a lovely piece arranged from the middle movement of Cyril Rootham’s String Quintet is well worth revising, by this one time Cambridge composer and conductor. A delightful programme, splendidly played, ended with Mr Jacobson’s lilting Gothenburg Waltz, with the Pas de Deux by Gavin Sutherland, who also needs no introduction and suggested maybe his present preoccupation with ballet music. We also heard the Spanish Dance by Archibald Joyce, the “English Waltz King”, which was a Bolero, albeit faster than some boleros we are used to.

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