Classical Source January 2013
Concertos have long been central to Matthew Taylor’s activities – yet the Viola Concerto (2010) took shape as a series of ‘humoreskes’ inspired by Sibelius’s magical set for violin and orchestra, with Taylor only latterly realising its concerto-like status. Thus a wistful and atmospheric Andante is followed by a tensile Presto the more arresting for its compression – before a Larghetto which, its eloquent solo line unfolding over rapt Tippett-like harmonies, forms the heart of the work. The slow fourth movement is essentially an accompanied cadenza, leading directly into the final Allegro whose ‘riotoso’ marking points up its always impulsive and energetic manner – evidently inspired by the composer’s daughter Imogen; the work is dedicated to ‘Imo’. The work received an assured and also insightful account from Sarah-Jane Bradley, who emerged effortlessly over inventive and economic orchestral writing (with no flutes or clarinets, but a piccolo and two horns alongside timpani and strings) to which Garry Walker – having directed a fine account of Taylor’s Second Symphony at this venue four years ago – did ample justice.
Gramophone November 2012 (Naxos English Viola Music)
Sarah-Jane Bradley's viola has a singing quality beautifully suited to this essentially ruminative, lyrical repertoire and Christian Wilson's role as accompanist is most sensitively judged in allowing the plaintive viola to express its full range of plangent gestures. The Sonata (1922) by Bainton…is an impressive piece…splendidly shaped by Bradley.
Gramophone October 2012 (Peter Fribbins, Fantasias)
The 2 Fantasias for viola and piano feature deep meditations for viola, the first based on a Welsh folk tune, the second on a Hungarian melody, with the piano often weaving an elaborate accompaniment. Superb performances from the dedicated Sarah-Jane Bradley and Anthony Hewitt. Altogether an illuminating portrait of a composer who deserves to be better known
The Telegraph October 2012 (Alwyn Festival)
But one piece did strike me as being of enduring quality: a concertino for viola and orchestra from 1939 called Pastoral Fantasia that sounded like Vaughan Williams's The Lark Ascending at lower pitch (the ascent not so dazzling), with less passion, but still saturated with a melancholic beauty that the soloist here, Sarah-Jane Bradley, delivered beautifully.
The Strad September 2012 (Naxos English Viola Music)
"This latest installment in Naxos's review of English viola music is particularly succulent..Sarah-Jane Bradley plays with great passion, finding just the right touch of roughness for the bits of stylised Irish fiddling, whilst soaring freely above Wilson's busy piano effusions..Bradley performs all these pieces with quiet authority and a beautiful, finely chiselled dark sound"
The Observer August (Naxos English Viola Music)
"No viola jokes, please - this is a seriously good recording. Sarah-Jane Bradley lends her lustrous tone and superb musicianship to works written by English composers all born within a generation of one another - Edgar Bainton, Theodore Holland, York Bowen and Granville Bantock - and each inspired by the great viola virtuoso Lionel Tertis. Bainton's lovely, lyrical 1922 viola sonata gets its first recording here, as does Bowen's brief but heartfelt Piece for Viola. Bradley's gift for a rich, sustained line is best displayed in the Romance of Holland's theatrical Suite in D, while Christian Wilson's alert and sensitive pianism is particularly evident in Bantock's folk-themed Sonata in F. He and Bradley make a terrific partnership."
The Times, August 2012 (Presteigne Festival)
"Beamish's mastery of atmosphere and Sarah-Jane Bradley's viola made "Under the Wing of the Rock a humane triumph"
The Guardian, May 2012 (Inner Voices Festival, David Matthews, Kings Place)
"A stirring performance of the viola concertino Winter Remembered with Sarah-Jane Bradley as soloist, was a wonderful reminder of the depth and reach of Matthews' consummate artistry"
International Record Review, March 2012(Benjamin viola concerto)
"Bradley gives a performance of sustained intensity and expressively nuanced tone"
Gramophone, March 2012 (Andrew Achenbach on Arthur Benjamin concertos)
"These performances have fine dash and infectious commitment about them, while the sound is extremely vivid to match. Do lend an ear to this most enterprising issue."
The Strad, March 2012(Benjamin viola concerto)
"..the fruity quality of Sarah-Jane Bradley's viola..that viola weight is vital for the Elegy, Waltz and Toccata, where the soloist has to find the strength to dominate a busy orchestra in the finale"
MusicWeb International Recording of the month January 2012: Arthur Benjamin Concertos Dutton Epoch
Both soloists make an amazing contribution to this disc..seriously impressive..Sarah-Jane Bradley brings drama and drive to the thorny viola concerto..This is a fantastic CD. I hope all enthusiasts of British music will rush out to buy it"
Although this recital was part of the usual London Chamber Music Series, it coincided with the Jewish Book Week. Sarah-Jane Bradley and Anthony Hewitt paid their own tribute with works by two Jewish composers.Mendelssohn's Viola Sonata is a teenage work but extremely accomplished, as we have come to expect. Not having heard it for a while, I had forgotten how much of the viola part was written in two voices - Bradley's double-stopping was beautifully in tune. The partnership with Anthony Hewitt was a good one, as he played up to Bradley's famed tone without trying to drown her. Although Mendelssohn does not provide a slow movement, the final variations gave the duo plenty of chances to expand their phrasing. There were gorgeous effects in all three movements but especially in that finale.We rarely hear anything by Joseph Joachim in a concert. His Hebrew Melodies, inspired by Byron's poetry, can be very involving if the players sustain a long line and find colours to vary the prevailing plaintive tone. Bradley had clearly thought long and hard about how to voice the viola part and the result was most satisfying.Peter Fribbins was present to hear his two Fantasias, composed several years apart but both well written and effective. In the first, based on a Welsh folksong, he demands some difficult A-string acrobatics and harmonics from the violist, well executed here. The second Fantasia, based on a Hungarian folksong, sets an interesting viola line against rippling scalar passages on the piano for much of the time.Although the Fribbins pieces were well worth hearing, one felt the need for something a little faster to end the recital. A substantial encore, 'Dance of the Knights', one of Vadim Borisovsky's masterly transcriptions from Romeo and Juliet, filled the bill nicely.
David Denton, David's Review Corner, September 2011
"The record industry has recently discovered the viola, with Naxos contributing some of the most interesting releases among the abundance of new issues. All the works here were originally composed for the instrument save for the Dohnányi which
is played in an arrangement by the soloist. Such a transcription is not
without the composer's blessing, Dohnányi accompanying the violist,
Lionel Tertis, in a London performance of the work. It certainly sits
happily on the weightier instrument, often taking it into the warm
resonance of the lower strings as the mood swings from happiness to a
sad nostalgia. In three movements it offers enough to challenge solo
technique without encouraging a virtuoso treatment. Martinu's Sonata
comes from the last years of his life and has the composer in a homesick
folk idiom. Tonal and immediately attractive, it has an abundance of
harmonic pungency. Still immersed in Germanic influences the young
Kodály's Adagio is laden with sadness. It was Byron's poems based on biblical stories that inspired Joseph Joachim's Hebrew Melodies, the
three movements communicating the feelings of people in exile. Somewhat
meandering in content it's episodic nature has many moments of tender
beauty. Composed as a competition test piece, Enescu's Concertstucke is
a real challenge of left-hand dexterity, linked with the need to create
long flowing passages. Sarah-Jane Bradley, the viola of the much
recorded Sorrel Quartet during its lifetime, and a member of the Leopold
String Trio, plays a gorgeous viola from 1806 by Chanot, its rich and
fruity tone immaculately played and with expressive musicianship. Many
of the pieces call for an equal partnership from the piano admirably
handled by Anthony Hewitt. Premiere league sound."
"Superb performance… Sarah-Jane Bradley outstanding throughout" (Patterson Viola Concerto)
International Record Review, March 2011
"Sarah-Jane Bradley delivers a really committed and convincing account of this subtle and genuine piece of music" (Patterson viola concerto)
The American Record Guide, January/February 2011
"One of my favourite pieces here is the [Alwyn] Viola Sonatina. There is such beauty in this short work and its performance. Sarah-Jane Bradley plays with marvellous tone and warmth here and I couldn't be more delighted about her performance."
BBC Music Magazine, November 2010
"The [Alwyn] Viola Sonatina's self-deprecating title disguises the understated strength of its four beautifully inventive movements. Performances and recording both excel, with Sarah-Jane Bradley's viola-playing outstanding"
The Guardian, 3 September 2010
"Paul Patterson's Viola Concerto similarly brings together soulful lyricism with surging tempos; soloist Sarah-Jane Bradley's lustrous tone brought dramatic force to the recitative and aria" (Presteigne Festival)
Classical Source May 2010, Lionel Tertis International Competition and Festival
"The tonal refulgence of Bradley was beyond praise - no violist in the country makes a better sound… she was fully in command of the styles"
Classic FM Magazine, November 2009, Editor's Choice (5*review)
"Pure Paradise: The evocative world of Delius is brought beautifully to life by viola player Sarah-Jane Bradley and friends…"
"The unaccountably neglected Double Concerto for Violin and Viola is brought stunningly to life by Graffin and Bradley, who is also on peak in the haunting Caprice and Elegy. Highly recommended…"
"Melodic rapture: Bradley's rich-toned, hauntingly eloquent playing, meltingly phrased and dynamically supple, proves ideal in the Caprice and Elegy, a sublime late work"
The Daily Mail, October 2009
"Magnificently played by Sarah-Jane Bradley"
The Daily Telegraph, August 2009
"Ardent and affecting soloist: Sarah-Jane Bradley"
Gramophone, August 2009 "Sarah-Jane Bradley is the excellent soloist… the sound is immensely vivid"
The Strad, May 2009
"Sarah-Jane Bradley is brilliantly on top of the virtuoso writing - especially in the extended cadenza - with barely a hint of strain" (Butterworth)
International Record Review, May 2009
"Sarah-Jane Bradley gives a really fine account of the wide-ranging Viola Concerto, the character of which extends from light-hearted to deeply serious expression" (Butterworth)
MusicWeb International, CD Review Recording of the month, April 2009
"Its essentially introverted contemplative nature is perfectly captured on this recording by violist Sarah-Jane Bradley, whose rich and sensitive playing is ideally suited to portraying the score's inward-looking nature, whilst fully rising to the challenges of its more emotionally charged episodes" (Butterworth)
Ham & High, May 2009
"Exquisitely played by soloist Sarah-Jane Bradley" (Paul Patterson Viola Concerto premiere)
Classical Source, May 2009
"An auspicious launch from Sarah-Jane Bradley" (Patterson)
Camden New Journal, May 2009
"Sarah-Jane Bradley, one of the world's most distinguished viola players"
Sunday Telegraph, March 2009
"The Viola Concerto suits the skills of the talented soloist"
Yorkshire Post, March 2009
"Sarah-Jane Bradley is the superb soloist"
The Strad, February 2008
"Is there a better British Violist than Sarah-Jane Bradley? I write just a week after hearing her play a demanding recital and after several hearings of this disc of British Viola Music, the most gorgeous artefact to come my way for years… Winter Remembered is a beautiful piece for viola and 16 strings, written for Bradley… it gains from Bradley's palette of colours… McCabe's Concerto Funebre elicits superb sound from Bradley, not least in the substantial cadenza. To Alwyn's Pastoral Fantasia she brings tone of an extraordinary plangency, with a wonderful ring to the middle register. Her variations of colour and vibrato, worthy of Tertis or Primrose contribute to the best recording of Holst's late Lyric Movement that I have heard… a lovely recital, excellent production, recording and presentation"
Gramophone, July 2007
"Sarah-Jane Bradley is a wonderfully eloquent player. Recommended"
BBC Music Magazine, June 2007 - 5* review for both performance and sound
"Sarah-Jane Bradley is that rare kind of viola player who can make you blush with shame for ever having told a viola joke. In her hands the instrument is passionate, eloquent and wide-ranging in its colours and moods - a long way from the charmless introvert of orchestral lore… the variety, cohesion and purpose Bradley brings make sure the ear is kept involved… Bradley's performance shows just how much contained intensity and intellectual strength there is beneath the apparently calm surface. I would happily put this at the top of any list of recommended recordings"
International Record Review, June 2007
"Another magnificent record of some fine compositions outstandingly well played by the gifted Sarah-Jane Bradley, a totally committed and convincing performance… These works are all wonderfully played - the career of this young violist should be closely followed"
"Played with great feeling and panache by Sarah-Jane Bradley" (Presteigne Festival, premiere of James Francis Brown's Trio Concertante for string trio and string orchestra)
Daily Telegraph, May 2006
"A work that gave Bradley a chance to show off her mellifluous legato… both players were vigorously dramatic… Bradley's viola playing was particularly dreamy and seductive… the undoubted highlight was Bradley's powerfully judged account of Hindemith's Viola Sonata, a work as wide-ranging as Schumann in its mixture of fantasy and drama" (Brighton Festival)
The Strad, March 2004
"Sarah-Jane Bradley was an ardent, committed soloist"
Musical Opinion, January 2004
"Sarah-Jane Bradley brought a gloriously expressive tone to its lamenting but expansive lines"
Evening Standard, November 2003
"An identifiably Schubertian Gemütlichkeit - a chestnuts-by-the-fireside conviviality - that was ideally captured in Sarah-Jane Bradley's sympathetic playing"
Musical Opinion, January 2003
"A virtuoso performance"
The Strad, December 2002
"Exceptional achievement… superb recital" (Wigmore Hall)
Birmingham Post, August 2002
"Performances from violist Sarah-Jane Bradley were musicianly and committed"
Classical Source, August 2002
"Dedicatee Sarah-Jane Bradley played with assurance and a real appreciation of the solo line's connective role in the musical discourse. The cadenza was elegantly phrased…"
Classical Music, July 2002
"Sarah-Jane Bradley has a very romantic sound which I kept in mind all the time I was writing" (David Matthews on Winter Remembered)
BBC Music Magazine, January 2002
"Sarah-Jane Bradley makes a strong impression in the prominent solos of [Shostakovich] Quartet no.13"
The Observer, July 2001
"A ravishing viola solo" (Aldeburgh Festival)
The Strad, 'Stars for the Future', January 2000
"Playing the viola as well as Sarah-Jane Bradley does is no joke… she was the moving spirit behind the Leopold String Trio from its foundation in 1991; but this season sees her going solo. Bradley's performances of the [York Bowen] sonata have evoked comparisons with Lionel Tertis for depth and quality of tone"
Gramophone, 'Talent Scout', December 1999
"Since its formation in 1991, the Leopold String Trio has had the viola player Sarah-Jane Bradley as its musical conscience. Bradley's performances of the [York Bowen] C minor sonata have been revelatory… A viola player worth listening out for"
Daily Telegraph, August 1998 - Critic's Choice
"A fine viola and piano duo"
The Strad, August 1997
"Exceptional… Bradley is an adventurous artist… Every whisper of the bow was loaded with insight and intelligence"
The Scotsman, April 1997
"Sarah-Jane Bradley's accomplished viola shone through in much of the music, offering a rare opportunity to appreciate one of the Cinderellas of the instrumental scene."
The Strad, October 1995
"When she dug into the C string for the second subject of the first movement [York Bowen Sonata] I immediately thought 'Tertis!'"
The Strad, June 1995
"Courageous playing… one of Britain's most promising players"
CD Compact Spain, February 1995
"A performance that shows thousands of colours in the spectacular 5/8 Rondo Finale" (Brotons Viola Sonata CD)
The Strad, December 1994
"Ravishing renderings of the two final movements of York Bowen's C minor sonata" (Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition)