Notes and Editorial Reviews
R E V I E W S
Debussy’s Violin Sonata emerges from its explication by Frank Peter Zimmermann as stony defiance rather than as elusive suggestion. Zimmermann’s steely tone and aggressive articulation hardly preclude nuance or innuendo, however; and the contrasts within movements, especially the first and last, reveal an urgency that the Sonata’s relative emotional disengagement sometimes dampens. In Ravel’s sonata, the duo affects the kind of disorientation that Ravel’s treatment of the two instruments as opposites ought to engender. Even Grumiaux, among the best violinists of the preceding generation, seemed daunted by the piece’s acerbity, puzzling, perhaps discouraging him from calibrating
his suave tone production to what may have seemed an uncongenial task. Zimmermann and Lonquich explore the first movement’s mysteries, play the Blues with menacing smears, and generate brisk static electricity in the Perpetuum mobile. In fact, they recall Szigeti’s penetrating version, which they nearly equal in effectiveness. Nevertheless, they surpass in richness of characterization such a creditable account as Dong Suk Kang’s on Naxos 8.550276. Janá?ek’s sonata, which I’ve described as exploring “existential musico-philosophical terrain” in terms of loosened tonality, offers Zimmermann declamatory material in which to revel. Kremer may have slashed and burned in this work (Deutsche Grammophon 427351,), but Zimmermann makes as strong an impression with subtler saber rattling. Although Zimmermann conveys the terror at the end of the third movement and through the fourth, he manages to bring the sonata back from the brink of harmonic experimentation and psychological exploration. Ravel’s Sonate posthume, whatever relationship it might bear, in the shaping and manner of repeating its motives and in the registration and voicing of the violin and piano parts, to the three-decades-later sonata, speaks with a more familiar voice than does its cheekier and perhaps more memorable successor. Zimmermann and Lonquich warm to its moody statement...
Zimmermann’s and Lonquich’s recital, originally issued in 1991, appears in EMI’s “Encore” series, with clear recorded sound that, neither too close nor too reverberant, reveals sharp detail without transmitting extraneous noise. While any of these performances might easily be recommended individually, they exponentially increase the recital’s appeal in combination. Each work involves some sort of experimentation, and Zimmermann and Lonquich communicate a reassuring sense that the outcomes, individual and collective, have been, on the whole, highly successful. Bravo.
Robert Maxham, FANFARE
If you associate Debussy and Ravel's sound world with subtle pastels applied in gentle dabs, you might consider violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann's primary colors and throbbing brush strokes overly intense. You can't argue with his spot-on intonation and impeccable technique, but the allusive qualities that characterize Debussy's sonata are better served with a lighter bow arm and more discreet vibrato. Neither he nor pianist Alexander Lonquich bursts the delicate bubble framing the Ravel Sonata's exposed give-and-take between violin and piano, but the same holds true for Sarah Chang's more coy, sexier performance with pianist Lars Vogt (also on EMI). The players are too tightly wound in the central Blues movement, imposing Prokofiev's central nervous system upon Gershwin's soul (I much prefer Gilles Apap's sultrier, looser account), and the snappy finale could use drier, less emphatic articulation to ensure effervescence, à la Chang/Vogt or Tetzlaff/Andsnes (Virgin Classics).
By contrast, Zimmermann's full-throated aesthetic ideally suits Janácek's Sonata, embracing its scruffy edges and speech-like phrases forthrightly and full-out, with no small help from his equally fervent pianist. They yield little, if anything all, to Faust/Kupiec (Harmonia Mundi), Suk/Panenka (Supraphon), and Kremer/Argerich (DG), and that says a lot. Ravel's early "Sonate posthume" may not match the formal concision of his mature work, yet his ravishing harmonic sense and astute ear for textural variety are already evident. Zimmermann and Lonquich turn in an impassioned and well-paced reading that makes the music appear less rhapsodic than it is. All told, I recommend this 1990 recording for the Janácek and the Ravel rarity, as well as for EMI's bright, vivid engineering.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Sonata for Violin and Piano by Leos Janácek
Frank Peter Zimmermann (Violin),
Alexander Lonquich (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1914-1921; Brno, Czech Republic
Notes: Arranger: Josef Suk.
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