From the tone and idiom of his last two symphonies, we know that Vaughan Williams did not intend to “go gentle into that good night”. His Violin Sonata, composed when he was 82 in 1954 is just as trenchant and angry as he was in his Fourth Symphony composed almost 20 years earlier. If I had to describe it in one word, it would be “gnarly”. Apparently, the work’s dedicatee, Frederick Grinke reacted similarly to the Hapsburg Emperor who said one of Mozart’s masterpieces had “too many notes”. Unlike Mozart who replied deftly but took silent umbrage Vaughan Williams and Grinke set about “thinning it out” – to great effect. 

Midori Komachi

In the first movement here, both musicians seem to go their separate ways in developing themes but play more to each other with even greater effect in the fiery Scherzo movement. The final movement was the most interesting for me as both musicians explored the highly original theme and variations. 

I had to chuckle when I read a US critic write: “For Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending I...