William Mathias - Sonata for Violin and Piano (1952)
This Violin Sonata was composed in the summer of 1952 when William Mathias was a 17-year old schoolboy who’d just finished the equivalent of his A-levels at Whitland Grammar School. When he went on to Aberystwyth University in the autumn he read English, French and Philosophy but not - originally - Music! Nevertheless, he soon became a prominent figure in the University’s musical life and this Sonata was the first work of his to be publicly performed there - on May 16, 1953 - when violinist Edward Bor was accompanied by the composer. It was the first work to be entered in Mathias’s ‘Catalogue of Compositions’ but it wasn’t assigned an opus number - and became one of several student works which he later officially ‘withdrew’ from performance or publication. Given that Mathias had started to compose small pieces at the age of 5, it could realistically be claimed that the Violin Sonata thus marks the conclusion of his ‘juvenilia’ (an enormous store of works in all genres, now safely stored at the National Library of Wales along with all his manuscripts) and the gateway to his mature development as a composer. The fact that he was entirely self-taught at this point makes the achievement all the more remarkable. A request to the Mathias Estate in 2008 from violinist Sara Trickey and pianist Iwan Llewelyn-Jones for permission to perform and record the Sonata led to a private run-through at London’s Wigmore Hall in 2009 and thence to the second ‘premiere’, at Galeri in Caernarfon on July 2, 2010 followed by a recording by these artists on the Naxos label. Although Mathias had always expressed firm views against releasing withdrawn works, it was nevertheless felt - at this distance - that even though it was not yet fully individual in voice or expression, the sheer passion and accomplishment of this music more than justified its being heard. We are now delighted that Tŷ Cerdd is to publish the work as part of the Discover Welsh Music initiative with the National Library of Wales in this splendid new edition by Ethan J. Davies.
Rhiannon Mathias & Geraint Lewis – July 2016
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