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Ravel: Complete Works For Violin & Piano / Neudauer, Steckel

Ravel / Neudauer / Steckel / Rivinius
Release Date: 01/29/2013 
Label:  Hänssler Classic   Catalog #: 98002   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Lena NeudauerPaul RiviniusJulian Steckel
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

RAVEL Sonate posthume. Habanera (arr. Kreisler). Berceuse. Sonata for Violin and Cello. Kaddish (arr. Garban). Tzigane. Violin Sonata Lena Neudauer (vn); Paul Rivinius (pn); Julian Steckel (vc) HÄNNSLER 98.002 (70:47)

Violinist Lena Neudauer and pianist Paul Rivinius play Maurice Ravel’s Read more “complete works” for violin and piano (although the collection includes arrangements), and she’s joined by cellist Julian Steckel in the composer’s Sonata for Violin and Cello. The program opens with a performance of the Sonate posthume of 1897, in which Neudauer seems sympathetic to the work’s sinuous rhetoric (imparting special timbral richness in the many passages in the lower registers); Rivinius proves a tonally aware, sympathetic collaborator: Together they make the ecstatic passages near the end of the movement’s center soar with overwhelming effect. The engineers have caught the duo close up, revealing many moments of haunting expressivity in the reverberation echoing Rivinius’s pedaling. Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien (Hyperion 67820, Fanfare 35:3) give a similarly nuanced account of the work, with Ibragimova deploying a wider range of timbres and rising to greater intensity in the climactic passages. The Habanera , in Fritz Kreisler’s arrangement for violin and piano, may be familiar to listeners from the composer’s Rhapsodie espagnole ; but it makes a tangy miniature in this arrangement; Neudauer and Rivinius spice its already rich ethnic flavor with edgy timbres and considerable wit. They make the rhythm of the Berceuse (on the name of Gabriel Fauré—G, A, B, and so forth) more flexible in very subtle ways than does Nathan Milstein, but nothing seems to violate its exquisite expressive sense.

Neudauer and Steckel give a similar idiomatic account of the Sonata for Violin and Cello, bringing tonal strength to the first movement, but also great sensitivity to Ravel’s transparency, both harmonic and timbral. They’re bumptious in the second movement, a sort of pizzicato scherzo, taking effective advantage of its strong accents. Some of the robustness of their approach reappears in the more agitated moments of the third movement, which begins and ends reflectively; and they bring stirring effervescence to the finale, partly due to the bright crispness of Neudauer’s off-the-string bowings, and partly to her general technical brilliance. And once again, the punch they bring to accents should keep even the most sated listener awake. Violinist Sasha Rozhdestvensky, pianist Mosiane Marfurt, and cellist Michal Ka?ka compiled a program from similar building blocks (the three sonatas and Tzigane ) but included the Pièce en forme de habanera from 1907 (which doesn’t appear in Neudauer’s collection, billed as complete), Praga 250286, Fanfare 35:6. In the Sonata for Violin and Cello, they don’t create such electricity in the scherzo-like second movement; but Renaud Capuçon, Gautier Capuçon, and Frank Braley at least equal Neudauer’s kinetic energy, if not her sharply-etched dynamics; and the Capuçons included the Violin Sonata, the Sonate posthume with the Sonata for Violin and Cello—as well as Ravel’s Piano Trio (but no short pieces), in their collection of the composer’s chamber music for violin (Virgin 7243 5 45492 2, Fanfare 29:6).

Zino Francescatti played the Kaddish (according to the Peter T. Köster’s notes, originally a song the composer wrote for Alvina Alvi, arranged for violin and piano by Lucien Garban), in a recording made available by Music & Arts (1260, Fanfare 36:3). By comparison with Francescatti, Neudauer and Rivinius seem considerably more atmospheric and more deeply imbued with the piece’s cantorial sensibility. Tzigane isn’t an arrangement, however, but one of the showiest pieces in the period’s violin repertoire; but I remember a time when some violinists declined even to discuss it. In the first section, an extended cadenza for solo violin, Neudauer displays the same sympathy for its style that she displays in the less ethnically colored works on the program, pushing and pulling at its lines to create the illusion of spontaneous improvisation. In this passage, her violin, made by Urs W. Mächler in 2005, seems to carry her into the highest registers of the G string with astonishing responsiveness—even the best violinists often emit an ungainly croak during these flights. She and Rivinius don’t hurry in the second section, a sort of Friss ; but the music doesn’t suffer any lack of brilliance on that account. They set out on the final page of Accelerando with almost tongue-in-cheek deliberateness, but work themselves up into a frenzy that should bring down the house in a live performance. In the violin sonata, their initial statements don’t prise apart the violin and piano parts so summarily as did Joseph Szigeti in his landmark 1953 recording with Carlo Bussotti; and for those who admire that earlier performance, their relative suavity may seem to dampen the effect, although they create a similar frisson in the tremolo section. Not every violinist seems sympathetic to this movement: Szigeti and Francescatti did; surprisingly, perhaps, Arthur Grumiaux didn’t. If Neudauer and Rivinius don’t belong with the former two, they don’t belong with Grumiaux either: They fall somewhere in the middle. And they’re appropriately slinky in the second-movement “Blues,” in which Neudauer explores just about as a wide range of timbres as Szigeti did—and reaches just about as fevered a climax. Neudauer introduces the finale’s perpetual motion with zesty wit and follows it up with Szigeti’s energy—but without his brittleness. Still, at moments he sounded more impudent, and some listeners may miss those moments. Likewise, at the conclusion, Szigeti sounded more ecstatic, and listeners may miss that exaltation.

On the whole, the program, insightfully—and brilliantly—played and captured in spacious but detailed sound, should appeal to almost anyone interested in any of these works. Recommended with special warmth and enthusiasm.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Sonata Posthume for Violin and Piano by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Lena Neudauer (Violin), Paul Rivinius (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1897; France 
Sonata for Violin and Piano in G major by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Lena Neudauer (Violin), Paul Rivinius (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923-1927; France 
Sonata for Violin and Cello by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Lena Neudauer (Violin), Julian Steckel (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1920-1922; France 
Pičce en forme de Habańera by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Lena Neudauer (Violin), Paul Rivinius (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1907; France 
Berceuse sur le nom de Fauré by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Lena Neudauer (Violin), Paul Rivinius (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1922; France 

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