Notes and Editorial Reviews
Fantasy in C. Rondo in b. Violin Sonata in A
Carolin Widman (vn); Alexander Lonquich (pn)
ECM B0016487 (62:23)
Carolin Widman and Alexander Lonquich open Franz Schubert’s Fantasy with a restraint that lasts throughout the entire introductory
before spreading into the ensuing
, which they enliven with a mixture of playfulness, subtlety, and wariness. Publicity materials
accompanying the pre-production release suggest that the duo scorns the texture of violin and accompaniment, which might suggest a sort of snobbishness, but the performance stands for itself: a seamless and surpassingly effective—even magical—cooperation (although the two might be trading the spotlight, it’s never obvious that it’s bouncing back and forth). Widman plays tantalizingly with the rhythm of the song that forms the central variation theme and both Widman and Lonquich cast spells of mesmerizing wizardry in the return of the opening before the final storm breaks, bubbling and flashing in their reading.
Schubert’s Rondo in B Minor sounds, if anything, more overtly pyrotechnical, although the opening is characterized more by blistering drama than popping fireworks in the duo’s reading. The Rondo proper, despite Widman’s technical command, affects a similarly histrionic persona: The two discover especially effective contrasts and surprisingly effective shifts within the movement’s wide emotional ambit, finally bringing it to an end with a shower of sparks. Nathan Milstein, who didn’t play much Schubert, used to play this movement, which his bold panache somehow fit it to a T.
For those who might expect a performance of Schubert’s Sonata in A Major to begin with a salon number’s geniality may be surprised at how quickly the duo shifts into the music’s higher gear ratios while still appearing to coast amiably. After a relatively explosive reading of the Scherzo, the duo returns to the same alert relaxation they exhibited in the opening movement; while they illuminate the finale’s opening with the sudden clarity of a lightning bolt, they continue by contrasting light and dark in a way that never suggests mannerism.
There’s no shortage of insightful or personal collections of Schubert’s music for violin and piano, among which might be mentioned Julia Fischer’s with pianist Martin Helmchen on PentaTone SACD 5186 348, which included both the Sonata and the Fantasy,
34:1; Pinchas Zukerman’s set with Mark Neikrug, which again includes the Sonata and Fantasy, as well as the Rondo, in Biddulph’s double-CD set on 80250,
34:5; and Isabelle Faust’s recording of just these three works with pianist Alexander Melnikov on Harmonia Mundi 901870,
30:4. Still, Widman’s and Lonquich’s performance, with its own wide range of affects, its subordination of the individual players to the whole, and its subtlety—to say nothing of its clear and faithful recorded sound—make it stand out even within such distinguished company. Strongly recommended.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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