English viola music
The Strad Recommends, October 2017
Recording of the month, MusicWeb International
Despite her youth, Ellen Nisbeth has received acclaim both in her native Sweden and abroad and is one of the Rising Stars selected by the European Concert Hall Organisation (ECHO) for the 2017/2018 season. A former student of London's Royal College of Music, she hails from a family of Scottish origin and feels a particular affinity for the landscapes of Scotland, and for the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson.&&&
For her first recital disc Ellen Nisbeth has devised an all-British programme which includes her own transcriptions of selected songs from Songs of Travel – Ralph Vaughan Williams's settings of poems by Stevenson. The songs intersperse the remainder of the programme, and one of them – Let Beauty Awake – has also lent its title to the entire disc. Together with the eminent pianist and chamber musician Bengt Forsberg, Nisbeth goes on to perform the impassioned Viola Sonata composed in 1919 by Rebecca Clarke – a well-known piece among viola-players, but deserving of a wider audience.
The centrepiece of this amply filled disc is Benjamin Britten’s Third Suite for Cello, transcribed for viola by Ellen Nisbeth herself – composed for Mstislav Rostropovich, the suite is based on Russian themes which Britten only presents in full towards the end of the substantial work. The same method is used in Lachrymae, here in the original version for viola and piano, where John Dowland’s song If my complaints could passions move is presented in full at the very end of the piece.