Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
Violin Sonatas: Nos. 1–3
Ulf Wallin (vn); Roland Pöntinen (pn)
BIS 1784 (SACD: 74:06)
Schumann’s three violin sonatas were all composed in a relatively short space of time; the first done in half a week in 1852, with the second (created because, among other reasons,
he was just not satisfied with the first) output a few months later in under a week as well. The third didn’t appear until a couple of years later, its second and fourth movements part of the “F.A.E.” collaboration with Brahms and Albert Dietrich, but then merged with two new movements created immediately after the multicomposed work was premiered. Joseph Joachim, the Third Sonata’s dedicatee, considered Schumann’s solo work a vast improvement on the“F.A.E.” piece, tightly structured and “more rounded and integrated.”
But the history of these sonatas is not quite as smooth and accepting as the original accolades would suggest. Clara and Brahms, for reasons not really known even today, dropped the Second Sonata—the most passionate one—from their repertories, and Clara decided to withdraw the Third. In fact the Third didn’t make its way onto the international scene until 1956! Since then all three sonatas are in almost every violinist’s active playbook, but the last two are not nearly as prevalent on concert stages as they should be. Op. 105 is the only one that has taken the public’s fancy, though it is hard to understand why op. 121 has not caught on—there are few more intense and rivetingly dark and ardent pieces of music in the entire Romantic oeuvre. I do understand to some extent the problems with the Third Sonata, though even here a closer acquaintance with the work reveals many extraordinary felicities and an engaging spirit of Schumannesque playfulness and energetic fervency of expression. All three sonatas to a certain extent languish in the shadow of Brahms, and most unfairly; Brahms, for all his wonders and beautifully constructed lines, is much more reserved in emotion, shackled as it were by his Classical constraints. It’s still all good—that’s what makes Brahms Brahms. But Schumann lets loose in his sonatas, and holds nothing back, also keeping the formalities of Classical form in place but much more willing to let the expression explode from his music.
It’s nice to have a Super Audio reading of these works, and the recorded sound is great, but it’s just one reason to acquire this disc. These are hands-down the most impressive readings of these sonatas I have ever heard, and that at a time when the recent Schumann year has brought a plethora of outstanding recordings—check the archives as they leap out from the pages. Swedish violinist Ulf Wallin has zeroed in on the heart of these pieces in a way that few do with his richly resonant sound and powerful bowing, while pianist Roland Pöntinen plays with rare abandon (for an accompanist), making for a partnership that surely would give Ferdinand David and Clara Schumann a run for their money. These spectacular performances belong in the library of any Schumann lover, and this release springs to the top of a very large and considerable heap.
FANFARE: Steven E. Ritter
Works on This Recording
Be the first to review this title