Notes and Editorial Reviews
Solo Violin Sonata.
David Grimal (vn); Georges Pludermacher (pn)
AMBROISIE 104 (55:26)
“From Sion to India,” a Musical Journey with David Grimal (DVD: 25:53)
David Grimal and Georges Pludermacher’s
sonata recital for Ambroisie begins auspiciously with a reading of Debussy’s Sonata that casts shadows without obscuring detail. Grimal’s hazy timbres, on the 1710 ex-Roederer Stradivari, pervade the first movement, but he achieves laser-like clarity in the upper registers, especially near the end. In the second movement, violinist and pianist alternate playfulness with throaty protestations of poignant yearning. Beside this performance, David Oistrakh’s sounds downright monochromatic. The duo slithers almost menacingly through the finale’s sultry passages. Throughout, Pludermacher reveals himself as a strong-minded exponent of Debussy in his own right.
Bartók’s Solo Sonata presents Grimal in another light, with consistently sharp edge, although he doesn’t slash and burn for the sheer joy of it. He reins in his aggressive instincts, unlike Viktoria Mullova, on Philips 420948, 12:4 (apparently no longer available), and György Pauk, on Naxos 8.550868, 19:5, who fashioned their readings from “razor blades and savagery.” Christian Tetzlaff (Virgin 45668, 28:2), similarly, didn’t subject listeners to gratuitous violence, yet consistently maintained control. Grimal, also downplaying the jagged elements (while paying them their due), explores a wide expressive range, even in the formidable Tempo di ciaconna, yet also maintains control; for example, the passages at the end of that movement, introspective though they may be, sound like cogent reflections rather than arid meanderings. By contrast, Grimal imparts to the Fuga a sort of impersonal energy. The booklet notes, provided by Grimal himself, draw attention to the recurrent motive B-A, coincidentally or not, the first two letters of both Bach and Bartók’s name, and the Magyar gesture that follows immediately the first movement’s opening figure, again relating the two composers in a musical way. Grimal takes a more abstract approach to the Melodia; its mystical and still atmosphere pervades the eerie final movement as well, despite the technical dazzle and sharp fragments that appear in later pages.
Ravel’s Sonata seems to yield its secrets more readily in subdued light, and Szigeti and Dong Suk Kong, for example, provided just that, while even so eminent a violinist as Arthur Grumiaux didn’t seem quite at home in the work’s subtleties. Even if Grimal sounds moister and warmer than he ought to, he never tries to wed his part to Pludermacher’s highly independent one, and successfully preserves the required distance between the two. At the Blues movement’s opening, Grimal produces a sort of whining timbre that suggests
; his version of jazz doesn’t get down and dirty, even at the movement’s almost violent climax. Worse, the duo hardly gets off the ground in the kinetic finale; as in so many performances, this movement falls short of the standard set by Szigeti, who raised unforgettable goosebumps in the final pages.
The CD’s flip side offers a short program on DVD that consists largely of the same “metaphysical” kind of reflections that readers will have encountered in his booklet notes. But the recital doesn’t need an additional feature of any kind or quality; and it’s been recorded with sympathetic clarity and without annoying reverberation. It will perhaps appeal to collectors most strongly for its idiomatic reading of Debussy and most of Bartók. But those utterly convincing performances, and the congenial partnership that produced them, earn a recommendation for the whole issue.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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