"...dazzlingly good chamber ensemble…
exuberantly expressive, intimate style…
gorgeously idiomatic playing’
The Times
Romanze-The Romantic Viola

I hope this disc goes at least some way to banishing those (admittedly very funny) viola jokes to oblivion. The Japanese violist Yuko Inoue's CV makes for impressive reading. She has pursued a successful solo career ever since winning the Seventeenth International Viola Competition. At present she holds a professorship at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Comparisons with Nobuko Imai are perhaps inevitable, and indeed there are two versions by Imai of the first work on the disc, Schumann's M?rchenbilder, Op. 113 (one with Argerich, the other with Vignoles). However, Inoue is completely persuasive on her own terms, able to project long-breathed lines and to play with real innigkeit. In the livelier movements she exhibits all the requisite technique and spirit to really involve the listener in Schumann's world. Only Sturrock's (occasionally) over-zealous accompaniment detracts a little.

Inoue champions the music of all of the composers on the disc wholeheartedly, being perhaps surprisingly impassioned in the Two Pieces by Frank Bridge (1905-8) and establishing a remarkably close rapport with her pianist in Glazunov's Elegy, Op. 44.

Kalliwoda's Three Nocturnes (from his Op. 186) exemplify light, harmless Romanticism. More importantly, the Bruch comes as a real bonus and adds to our knowledge of this composer's music. His Romanze, Op. 85 is haunting and melancholic (Inoue contributes perfectly in-tune double-stopping along the way).

Finally, the disc concludes with Glinka's D minor Viola Sonata (much of the accompaniment is realised by Borisovsky). As in the Schumann, there is stiff competition, this time once from Imai (an early BIS disc, CD358) and Bashmet (RCA 09026 61273-2), but again the power of Inoue and Sturrock's partnership provides a comprehensive experience. Both really immerse themselves in the Romanticism of it all, producing an improvisatory feel in the more lyrical passages. The second (and final) movement is a beautiful way to end a disc that will bring a great deal of pleasure and more than its fair share of discoveries. The recording is full and spacious, fully up to Black Box's high standards.

Colin Clarke