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Schnabel: Violin Sonatas / Tetzlaff, Litwin

Release Date: 09/13/2005 
Label:  Arte Nova   Catalog #: 277980   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Artur Schnabel
Performer:  Stefan LitwinChristian Tetzlaff
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 9 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Artur Schnabel regarded his composing as a hobby rather than a calling, yet many of his works, such as the two featured on this disc, are serious in scale and purpose. The 1929 Sonata for Solo Violin is the most imposing of the pair, its five movements adding up to about 45 minutes--a long time to listen to any solo instrument. Schnabel's harmonic and melodic thinking occupies that murky limbo where tonality and atonality cancel each other out. There are many moments of genuine inspiration: the Scherzo, for instance, with its bouncy scales and rhythmic élan, and the third movement's muted thoughts in the opening, sprinkled with murmuring pizzicato chords. However, as the music turns more agitated and gnarly, invention flags. Read more Similarly, yards of arid note-spinning throughout the fourth movement prevent the witty, biting, Richard Strauss-like motives to come into their own. The 15-minute finale goes on way too long for what the musical ideas have to express, particularly in the central sequence of scales.

I much prefer Schnabel's 1935 Sonata for Violin and Piano. The medium alone offers more potential for textural variety, such as in the magical scherzo's shimmering use of muted fiddle cascades and high register piano chords that sound like melting music boxes. And the finale bristles with energy and even humor to a point where it almost doesn't matter that it sounds like Hindemith minus the good chords. Violinist Christian Tetzlaff and pianist Stefan Litwin click into the dramatic core of each movement, mustering up all the color, rhythmic crispness, and contrast of character this music needs to sustain its fascinating (if sometimes rambling) case. If, however, you happen to spy the earlier and out-of-print Paul Zukofsky/Ursula Oppens CD containing these two works, grab it, for Zukofsky puts a fiercer spin on the solo sonata's outer movements. That takes nothing away from Teztlaff's fully committed interpretation. All told, this disc is a must for anyone interested in Artur Schnabel the composer.

--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Violin and Piano by Artur Schnabel
Performer:  Stefan Litwin (Piano), Christian Tetzlaff (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1935 
Sonata for Violin solo by Artur Schnabel
Performer:  Christian Tetzlaff (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1919 

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