Notes and Editorial Reviews
Violin Sonata No. 2.
Fantasy in C
Frank Stadler (vn); Luis Magalhães (pn)
TWOPIANISTS TP1039084 (78: 24)
Given the prominence of the label’s name on this release’s spine, I thought that I was about to hear arrangements for piano four-hands of these three violin sonatas. Not so. TwoPianists was created by pianist Luis
Magalhães as a vehicle for him and his wife, Nina Schumann, also a pianist. (TwoPianists also is the name under which they perform together.) This CD must be “boys’ night out,” then, for Luis and violinist Frank Stadler. The booklet does not indicate if the two of them perform together frequently; the performances themselves suggest that they do.
This is a meaty program. The sonatas are performed in the order indicated above—that is to say, in reverse chronological order. Even though this is counterintuitive, it is not jarring. (One might say that Janá?ek’s thorough lubrication of one’s ears allows Schumann and the glorious Schubert to slide right in.) These are important works which allow the musicians to display not only their techniques but also their intelligence. Stadler and Magalhães pass all the tests. As I wrote in my review of Gabriel Chodos’s Schubert piano sonata disc (also in this issue), it is gratifying to discover how many lesser-known classical musicians are recording performances that are just as viable as those recorded by the big boys. For example, Gidon Kremer has recorded all three of these works, and recently I have been enjoying some of David Oistrakh’s recordings of the Schubert and the Janá?ek. Many collectors looking for their first recordings of any of these works would likely turn to a familiar name, but if they did, they would be missing out on some very impressive music-making by the present performers.
Although Stadler and Magalhães play with character, their character does not overwhelm the music itself, and they find a different sound and a different style for each of the three sonatas. In the Janá?ek, in particular, I admire the wealth of colors that Stadler creates here—all in service of the music. Just try the beginning of the Adagio fourth movement, and I expect you’ll marvel at the human quality of Stadler’s playing. The musicians bring a more innocent quality to the Schubert, without negating the music’s incipient strangeness, e.g., in the composer’s use of tremolo. Schubert is thus revealed as, like William Blake, both knowing and innocent. For me, the least successful performance here (and it is hardly a failure) is of the Schumann. Stadler and Magalhães seem less willing to succumb to the seductions of the romantic spirit, and there is, if not a stiffness, then at least an orderliness to this performance that I find uncharacteristic of Schumann. As a result, the final movement comes off as a little repetitive and even uninspired in terms of its melodic materials, because the two musicians perform it with such literalness and control.
I don’t want to make too much of that, though, because this is a very enjoyable disc. Reviewing is most worthwhile when one discovers a work, a composer, or a performer. Barry Ross’s thorough booklet notes add to the enjoyment, and the engineering is honest and realistic. The venue was Endler Hall at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. I’m not sure how TwoPianists and the present performers ended up there, but I am glad they did!
FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
Works on This Recording
Sonata for Violin and Piano by Leos Janácek
Frank Stadler (Violin),
Luis Magalhaes (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1914-1921; Brno, Czech Republic
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