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Violin Sonatas


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Some Unfamiliar 20th-Century Violin Sonatas Jan. 20 2010
By J Scott Morrison - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This disc contains two violin sonatas I'd never heard before and one that I know only cursorily. The most familiar of the three is the Ravel sonata, written over a period of several years in the 1920s. It is Ravel's last chamber music score. Most notable in the sonata is its second movement, entitled 'Blues'. It is a seductive, even sexy, thing and reminds one of the Chinese teacup scene ('Keng-ça-fou, mah-jong') in the composer's opera 'L'Enfant et les Sortilèges.' It is played with sultry allure by violinist Frederieke Saeijs and pianist Maurice Lammerts van Bueren. These two Dutch musicians are new to me but clearly they are excellent musicians. The sonata's first movement is a classically restrained semi-sonata-allegro, which is to say, that it follows the general outlines of a sonata-allegro, but with liberties. It uses bitonality and modal passages, along with high romantic harmonies, to create an airy, ethereal movement. The Finale is a moto perpetuo with the violin playing almost unceasing sixteenths notes against the piano's sharp staccato chords. Nice performance.

The Respighi Violin Sonata, from 1917, is, for all Respighi's fascination with medieval and renaissance music, a deeply romantic work. In some ways it reminds me of Richard Strauss's violin sonata, and indeed it has been coupled with that work on a recording by Kyung Wha Chung and Kristian Zimerman Strauss: Sonata For Violin and Piano in E flat major, Op. 18 / Respighi: Sonata For Violin and Piano in B minor, P. 110 which I have not heard. It is in the three movements with a songful andante middle movement and a striking passacaglia finale. The movement's final moments call for some real fireworks, especially from the pianist, and van Bueren and Saeijs do not let us down.

The Granados Sonata is in one movement and lasts only eleven minutes. It is, for me, the weakest selection here. It tends to meander, sounding new-agey noodling in spots, and alas there is little of Granados's typical Spanish flavor. I don't know that it has ever been recorded before. I've certainly never run across it until now. After listening to it three times I can fairly say that it never did grab me. My idiosyncratic tastes, I'm sure.

Scott Morrison

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