A letter from the English violinist Tasmin Little telling me she is giving up the circuit in a couple of years when she hits 55 arrives pretty much at the same time of her latest release on Chandos, itself a fairly regular occurrence in recent years. Tasmin Little is a prolific recording artist and her programmes often take a few strides off the beaten track. The latest consists of music by women – Amy Beach, Ethel Smyth and Clara Schumann – and the sense of an ending adds poignancy to its reception.
Neither of the first two composers can claim that their careers wer wrecked by prejudice. Both Beach and Smyth came from wealthy, well-connected families. Smyth was promoted by Sir Thomas Beecham and Beach had several dates with the Boston Symphony. What their music wears is a sense of trying a bit too hard. Tasmin Little’s natural muscularity reduces the effortful aspect to something like normality. I found the pair of sonatas – both in A minor – warmly engaging as musical conversation, with John Lenehan sounding utterly empathetic at the piano.
The centrepiece of the release is Clara Schumann’s Three Romances, written in the season she met Brahms and dedicated to Joseph Joachim, who introduced the couple. Something like love is in the air and the music can all too easily be over-romanticised. This duo get it just right for my taste, a shimmer of discovery and excitement without gestural commentary. It shows just how much we’ll miss Tasmin once she has hung up her bow.