The viola was long regarded as the Cinderella of string instruments until it was rescued from obscurity by Lionel Tertis (1876 – 1975). The recital given to Tickhill Music Society by the young violist Rosalind Ventris was given the title “Homage to Lionel Tertis” and featured a number of the works which he popularised. Viola soloists are handicapped by having few works written exclusively for their instrument, and Rosalind confessed at the outset that her programme contained a number of pieces stolen from other instruments. The large audience quickly forgave her as she exploited the warm rich tone of her viola (an 18th century English instrument).
The recital started in fine style with a piece by Schumann, written originally for the new-fangled valve horn, but perfectly suited to the viola with its languorous tone and thrilling quaver runs. This was followed by a monumentally challenging Bach fugue for violin, and the first half closed with a performance of Schubert’s Arpeggione sonata. The latter was a form of bowed guitar, which flourished briefly in the 19th century, and nowadays the work is more often played on the cello, but is equally at home on the viola. In this, as in the Schumann, Rosalind was sympathetically accompanied by Richard Uttley on the piano.
After the interval there was a short prelude written by Howard Blake, of “Walking in the Air” fame, and the rest of the evening was given to a performance of a late sonata by Brahms, which he wrote in two versions – one for clarinet and the other for viola. This is a large work in the canon of chamber music, and requires an equal partnership of viola and piano, with the singing tone of the viola supported by the piano. Once again Tickhill Music Society enjoyed an evening of pure pleasure in the company of two young virtuosi.