Reviewing some 30 recordings of Elgar’s Violin Sonata in E minor for a Gramophone Collection in January 2016, it was eye-opening to behold the considerable variety of interpretations of this rather unconventional work – especially the rhapsodic first movement with its plethora of thematic ideas and its peculiar tonal dynamic (which veers as much towards A minor as it does towards E). Jennifer Pike’s individual reading of the first movement is one of well-defined character elements: drama for the first subject (which begins in A minor) and a spellbinding tranquillity for the main secondary idea (in which the articulation across the strings is beautifully executed) – which culminates in an imposing climax.
Pike seems very much at home in the modal world of Vaughan Williams’s late Violin Sonata in A minor (1954), and she and Martin Roscoe negotiate the imaginative Fantasia structure of the first movement with verve and vigour. The intonation of the multiple-stopping is well-nigh flawless and the execution of the long melodic passages is carefully balanced and nuanced….captivating as individual movements [the variations] and as a cumulative structure, especially in the way the final variation merges with a memory of the first-movement Fantasia in a glowing A major conclusion.
It is also good to be reminded that the original version of The Lark Ascending, premiered by Marie Hall and Geoffrey Mendham in 1920, was conceived as a chamber work for violin and piano rather than the more symphonic canvas we now take for granted in its orchestral garb. Pike and Roscoe point up its many expressive and elegiac merits.