Notes and Editorial Reviews
The three numbered works were posthumously published as "Sonatinas" due to their simple form, but Schubert gave these concise pieces a full sonata's measure of narrative power, character, and variety. His distinctive springing rhythms, unmatched melodic gifts, and penchant for sudden shifts of mood all combine so there is little need to notice or lament the absence of greater length or the intricacies of sonata form. The more ambitious Sonata in A Major, published posthumously as a "Duo," hews more closely to true sonata form but again, the vigor and variety of discourse within the movements is not really due to how the music is organized. This gives the performing duo some genuine interpretive options.
One way to succeed is to make pointed comment on how truly odd some of this writing really is. The Gidon Kremer recordings for DG (15:6, 17:3) play up the mercurial shifts of mood and expression and the obsessiveness of the rhythms, to sometimes disturbing effect; and Fabio Biondi took a similar approach on Opus 111 (19:3), perhaps to even more compelling ends. Another way is to place the emphasis on ardent, yet soft-spoken lyricism; the heartbreakingly beautiful old Arthur Grumiaux recording is a paradigm. Still another, and probably the most reliable, is to play it cleanly and musically with some attention paid to all the features of the music, including the need for beauty of tone. Among the recordings I have reviewed, that is the approach of Jamie Laredo on Dorian (14:5), Ana Chumachenco on Ondine (14:4), Raphael Oleg on Denon (17:2), and, for the most part (my reservation relates to the violinist's edgy tone), Szymon Goldberg on Decca (24:6).
That is also the approach taken in these fresh-faced, pleasing performances. One consistent feature worthy of special comment is distinguished veteran Phillip Moll's exceptionally subtle exploration of details of decoration and rhythmic spring that some others have downplayed. The build-up of power and momentum in the Andante to the A-Minor Sonata is extremely well done, perhaps the best I have heard, and the trio to the Scherzo of the Sonata in A is unusually slow; perhaps Moll, an old hand at Schubert lieder, was thinking of the Erlkönig. Apart from that, no one element is highlighted enough to be worthy of special mention, but important ones are given their due. Löwenstein, a young Berliner (born 1975) who studied with Zakhar Bron, Viktor Tretyakov, and Dorothy DeLay, has a pleasing if somewhat generic tone, an energetic bow arm, and a nice way of phrasing that avoids the exaggerated and the epic while paying attention to the moments of real strength. Unremarkable, perhaps, but discerning on the part of both artists. The sound, the product of German Radio Berlin, is pleasant enough but has a slight glare to the piano.
David K. Nelson, Fanfare Magazine
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