Notes and Editorial Reviews
Bartók's two sonatas for violin and piano are a cold shower in which violinists can cleanse themselves of Romantic residues from their predominantly 19th-century training. The music does, of course, have its reflective side; but even its most introspective moments are unclouded by the excesses of an earlier period. Saschko Gawriloff and Gilead Mishory mine these meditative lodes, from which they extract an especially coherent vision. Others have taken the sonatas as concatenations of gestures (for example, Isaac Stern on SONY SK 69245,
21:1 ), ethnic manifestos (even if they didn't set out to do so, who could make a stronger, more authentic
statement than Bartók himself and Szigeti on Vanguard OVC 8008?), or opportunities to revel in the sheer joy of aggressive dissonance (the way Mark Kaplan does in other works by the composer on Arabesque Z6649, 18:2). And the music, like the best of any period, reveals its multifaceted beauties to approaches from any of these directions. Still, no performer can afford to ignore the full range of the sonatas' expressive effects—and, happily, Gawriloff and Mishory, aware and adaptable, capture just enough of their Hungarian flavor, dissonant style, and gestural effects to be comprehensive. Despite, or perhaps because of, the works' protean nature, one portal or another may still offer readier access to particular groups of listeners. For those in particular who, still put off after several generations by the challenges inherent in Bartók's thorny language, seek to probe the core of his message without being forced down distracting byways of harshness for its own sake, Gawriloff and Mishory should seem ideal interpreters. But all admirers of Bartók, whatever their predilections, will find in these performances proof that neither of the sonatas necessarily carries a chip on its shoulder.
Tudor's reverberant but clear recorded sound complements the planks of the musicians' aesthetic platform, as do the rich but not cloyingly sweet timbres of Gawriloff's violin. Walter Labhart's notes provide about as insightful and useful a commentary on the music's origins, structure, and significance as I have read in booklet notes. A praiseworthy release that cannot but make new friends for the composer and bring acclaim to the performers, Tudor's issue of Bartók's Sonatas deserves a warm recommendation, especially to those who have yet to be touched by Bartók's profoundly expressive and deeply human message.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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