Transatlantic Sounds from the Past and Present

Transatlantic is violinist Callum Smart’s tribute to British and American composers. Recorded during the first lockdown, his intention was to focus on the music he was “deeply in love with”, and this passion certainly translates to Edward Elgar’s lyrical Violin Sonata in E minor which Elgar wrote in 1918. 

Smart plays the opening movement with great verve and just a hint of jazziness. The swirling Romance which follows is exquisite, its whimsical tone settling down into something graver. The expressive middle section was quite gorgeous. Playing Elgar, Smart and pianist, Richard Uttley, seemed to have a deep understanding of the sonata, revealing clearly all its nuances and mood shifts.

Amy Beach’s (1867-1944) Romance which followed on the album, was a quiet, nostalgic piece, its repetition of a seven-note theme suggesting a tender dance. The immensely catchy melody stayed in my head for days!

This is also an album of wild contrasts. Kate Whitley (b.1989) composer and pianist, is one of the brains behind the innovative Multi-Story Orchestra, which performs in carparks around UK. In writing Three Pieces for Violin and Piano (2014), Whitley was inspired by Janáček’s Viola Sonata. The composition is taut and spare but her middle movement, Tenemarente , with its febrile high violin line, showed Whitley’s ability to pack in great melodic intensity and passion. It was played to perfection by Smart.

All the music I had heard hitherto seemed to be looking back – even the contemporary music. Not so with John Adam’s Road Movies, which brings you excitingly to the present. Highly rhythmic and repetitive note combinations mimic machinery and motors. How pianist Uttley manipulated the keys at speed, and for so long, I don’t know.  His precision and timing were quite remarkable and heightened the music’s mesmeric effect. Both musicians conveyed beautifully the feelings that might be evoked on a long journey, the quickened heartbeat and the anticipation of your destination. 

This is an original, highly personal recording for Smart which showcases lesser known (over here) American repertoire. Recommended for the Smart-Uttley partnership alone.


Transatlantic is out on on the 20thNovember 2020

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