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Furtwängler: Violin Sonatas No 1 & 2 / Wollong, Wollenweber

Release Date: 04/24/2007 
Label:  Cpo   Catalog #: 777217   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
Performer:  Birgitta WollenweberMatthias Wollong
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 41 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

FURTWÄNGLER Violin Sonatas: No. 1 in d; No. 2 in D Matthias Wollong (vn); Birgitta Wollenweber (pn) cpo 777 217 (2 CDs: 101:25)

Given that the past few years have seen many of Furtwängler’s orchestral works appear on disc under his own baton and those of others, it was probably only a matter of time before his duo-writing saw greater public exposure once more. This release from cpo is a hugely important one for anybody wanting to discover or understand more about Furtwängler the composer. As a Read more man who claimed he was “forced by circumstance to conduct” rather than compose, which he considered his true vocation, one can find a correlation between the two areas of musical activity. Bearing some outward similarity to his conducting style in broad descriptive terms, Furtwängler stated, “I try to write simply, grandly, monumentally.” There is certainly a good deal of all three traits in both sonatas recorded here.

The D-Minor Sonata dates from 1935, but was not his first essay for the instrumental pairing; he left unfinished a work penned at the tender age of 10, and completed one in A Minor barely three years later. However, the D-Minor Sonata is mature, belonging to the same period as his Piano Quintet in C, with which it has much in common stylistically. What becomes immediately obvious is the densely argued nature of the writing, full of unapologetically thick late Romanticism that takes its direction from Brahms in broad terms. The framework, as in anything Furtwängler wrote, is absolutely tonal, and one cannot imagine it being otherwise. Matthias Wollong, a violinist who has previously impressed me in performances of Othmar Schoeck’s sonatas, approaches the task with much-needed dedication while securing full yet pliant tone. As the pianist, Birgitta Wollenweber has no mere accompanying role but serves to make the works verge on the symphonic in miniature. Furtwängler’s acknowledgement of this essential feature within both works no doubt came from his experience of them in performance, having taken the piano part at both premieres. Wollenweber copes well with the scale and sweep of the writing, lending the readings much grandeur and drama along the way.

The second sonata is in many ways a partner to the first. Written three years later, it expounds with an even greater monumental feeling Furtwängler’s thesis that compositions must be organic and self-evolving. Cast in three movements, each around or over 15 minutes duration, a sense of architecture and overall framework is essential to understanding the work and its layers of inner relationships. This comes through readily in the playing of both works, but the second most especially.

The one musical aspect I have not explored is the “simple,” which I interpret as openly lyrical or song-like. Only here do I find the more expansive account of the First Sonata’s second movement given by Dong-Suk Kang and François Kerdoncuff on the French Timpani label just preferable to cpo’s release. Timpani also released the Second Sonata separately with Alexis Galpérine as violinist, although I have not heard this recording. With both French releases being near impossible to find now, the field is open for cpo’s slim line two-CD set to grab your attention. The informative notes and full, yet unforced, recorded sound give the support that music and performances deserve. Most strongly recommended.

FANFARE: Evan Dickerson
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Violin and Piano no 1 in D minor by Wilhelm Furtwängler
Performer:  Birgitta Wollenweber (Piano), Matthias Wollong (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1935; Germany 
Venue:  Studio 10, Funkhaus, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 55 Minutes 34 Secs. 
Notes: Studio 10, Funkhaus, Berlin, Germany (10/2004 - 11/2004) 
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 2 in D major by Wilhelm Furtwängler
Performer:  Matthias Wollong (Violin), Birgitta Wollenweber (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938; Germany 
Venue:  Studio 10, Funkhaus, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 45 Minutes 51 Secs. 
Notes: Studio 10, Funkhaus, Berlin, Germany (10/2004 - 11/2004) 

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