Notes and Editorial Reviews
Frederieke Saeijs (vn); Maurice Lammerts van Bueren (pn)
NAXOS 8.572093 (57:25)
The first movement of Ravel’s Violin Sonata (and, perhaps, the sonata in general) seems to send the violin and piano on their separate ways, solving the problem of their compatibility by a method akin to that of cutting the Gordian knot.
Joseph Szigeti made the most of this quizzical relationship, deploying a tone that, if not pleasant, at least sounded hauntingly protean. In the first movement, Frederieke Saeijs creates a similar wealth of timbral detail that, by playing it straight, violinists like Grumiaux missed. If she doesn’t sound edgy in the tremolo passages, she’s generally as skilled in finding an appropriate shading for each passage, and pianist van Bueren shares her ear for tonal nuance. The blues movement in her reading seems down and dirty enough, even if the slides appear at times more fussy than seductive. The 1727 Pietro Guarneri (of Venice) seems to possess all the tonal resources she requires in the sonorously dissonant climax. Her opening gesture in the perpetual-motion finale seems to presage a more delicate performance than she gives the movement, which sounds athletic and energetic; when the violin and piano come together, as they do at the ends of the finale and the first movement, she and van Bueren deliver irresistible perorations. The duo sounds more atmospheric than did Dong-Suk Kang and Pascal Devoyon on Naxos’s 1989 recording of the sonata (8.550276), which I’ve always enthusiastically recommended.
Saeijs and van Bueren adopt a much darker manner in the first movement of Respighi’s sonata, with van Bueren warming to its large-scale romantic gestures and Saeijs producing a somewhat slender tonal counterpart, as did Kyung-Wha Chung (Deutsche Grammophon 427 617-2,
13:6). That’s not to say that she can’t—or, in fact, doesn’t—rise to the movement’s grandiloquent statements. Heifetz also recorded this sonata (with Emanuel Bay in 1950), and her ear for subtle inflection may remind listeners of his, though she lacks his almost continuous laser-like focus. Much of the interest in the movement arises from her ongoing dialogue with van Bueren, as congenial here as it may have been antagonistic (appropriately so) in Ravel’s sonata. Van Bueren displays in the opening of the second movement an affecting expressive range; once again, the dialogue between the two players seems now gently intimate, now rapt, and, at times, nearly ecstatic. The Passacaglia requires from the duo great musical and tonal strength, two attributes that marked Heifetz’s playing in general. But Saeijs, if she doesn’t match him, calls upon reserves of power in its most declamatory moments that makes her reading both credible and creditable; van Bueren thunders with titanic energy in the final pages.
Granados’s sonata, the program’s least familiar work, came to light, according to Caroline Waight’s notes, in 1971. In its brief duration (under 12 minutes), the sonata, dedicated to Jacques Thibaud, explores what may seem to many listeners, after Ravel’s and Respighi’s sonatas, less mountainous terrain, though it demands delicate sensitivity to its style. Just as the players penetrated the respective manners of Ravel and Respighi, the duo also seems to attune itself quickly to Granados’s idiom, with its recurring arabesques and gutty declamations on the G string (which may remind violin aficionados of Thibaud).
The engineers balanced the violin and piano during the sessions from September 11–13, 2006, in the Rabobank Zaal of the Muziekcentrum Frits Philips in Einhoven, sparing listeners undue reverberation without loss of warmth. Urgently recommended for their stylistic penetration and general musical insight, as well as for their tonal attractiveness and technical security, the performances should appeal to all kinds of listeners.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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