Notes and Editorial Reviews
ART OF THE SONATA
Petteri Iivonen (vn); Kevin Fitz-Gerald (pn)
YARLUNG 76721 (69:20)
Solo Violin Sonata No. 1.
Miniature No. 8 for Solo Violin.
Violin Sonata No. 3
Finnish violinist Petteri Iivonen and Canadian pianist
Kevin Fitz-Gerald recorded their sonata recital in Alfred Newman Hall in Los Angeles with what producer Bob Attiyeh describes in the booklet as a minimum of electronics between the performance and the listener. Iivonen plays a Ferdinando Gagliano violin from 1767.
The program opens with one of the two works for solo violin: Johann Sebastian Bach’s First Sonata. The close and clean recorded sound reveals the alertness of Iivonen’s trills in the first movement as well as the combination of richness and strength of the tone he draws from his violin and the subtlety of his dynamic shadings. The sonics don’t sound particularly reverberant but achieve a natural warmth that’s almost ideal (it seems at first that a violin rarely sounds so good in recordings). Iivonen invests the Fuga with a rhythmic springiness and flexibility that makes it sound fresh despite its familiarity. If the Siciliana seems a bit foursquare, it’s tonally lush and texturally subtle; in any case, the Presto pushes energetically forward. Iivonen isn’t Nathan Milstein—his version of Bach’s sonata seems too straightforward and simple even for that older violinist’s first set from 1954–56—but it’s almost as majestic.
The opening of César Franck’s Sonata displays the sumptuousness of Iivonen’s manner, while Fitz-Gerald sounds more sensitive and reflective than a mere accompanist might. He plays with rhythms and tempos as skillfully as does many a violinist in the work, and the duo achieves stunningly effective climaxes. In the opening of the stormy second movement, however, Iivonen’s violin, miked so closely, sounds temporarily almost as abrasive as a bandsaw at a time when the violinist’s manner seems most strident, although as the movement proceeds the recorded sound returns to a more ingratiating normality. As in the first movement, they soar very high in climactic moments. Still, some of the quieter moments, played very simply, seem even more impressive. Iivonen isn’t David Oistrakh, and his tone isn’t oily with the same butterfat, but it’s commanding in its own way.
David S. Lefkowitz’s six-odd-minute Miniature No. 8 provides an interlude before Johannes Brahms’s Third Sonata. Lefkowitz’s somber work meanders slowly through a small ambit of close intervals, interspersed with arching lines. Iivonen creates from it a sense of intense longing. Brahms’s sonata may sound deliberate at its opening, but it provides all the power that the work can bear. Yet the movement never loses its glow, although some moments of brashness in Iivonen’s tone production threaten on occasion to mar the movement’s overall impression. A bit of spotty intonation similarly threatens the slow movement, but in the third movement’s rhythmic piquancy the performances should reestablish their absolute credibility for everyone, while the finale is turbocharged.
With power to spare and an ingratiating subtlety, Yarlung’s performances present a young duo with a great deal of promise.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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