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Ferruccio BUSONI (1866-1924)
Violin Sonatas: No. 0 in C major (1876) [12:36]; No. 1 in E minor Op. 29 (1890) [22:51]; No. 2 in E minor Op. 36a (1898) [30:12]
Lara Lev (violin); Matti Raekallio (piano)
rec. Kuusaa Hall, Kuusankoski, Finland, 28-30 July 2003
FINLANDIA 2564 61078 2 [65:39]

I cannot imagine the Busoni sonatas being done with better spirit than by Lev and Raekallio. If I have a criticism it relates to Lev's violin tone which, 'under the microscope', is not as pure as it might be tending towards a slightly 'shredded' effect when exposed. It is as if fine filaments sometimes float at the edge of her note production. Set against that slightest of demerits a complete identification with the music.

Busoni dedicated the extremely attractive Second Sonata, here recorded in ten tracks, to the memory of his friend the composer-violinist Ottokar Novacek; remember his Perpetuum Mobile. The Sonata was premiered by Ottokar's brother Viktor in Helsinki in 1898 with Busoni at the piano. The music is predominantly Beethovenian, Olympian and lofty without severity and with folk and gypsy material infused from time to time.

The First Sonata is similarly Beethovenian with excursions into Lisztian bravura in the finale. Generally this adopts a happily exuberant style well put across by the two soloists. Think of the Beethoven Spring Sonata and then add a pinch of Bruch's lyricism and Liszt's pyrotechnics. Lastly comes the curiosity of the ten year old Busoni's C major sonata. The Andante has a Gothic flavour mixed with a fey femininity while the concluding Allegro Vivace dances with Mozartian joie-de-vivre.

The Siberian-born Lara Lev studied with Yuri Yankelevich and Vladimir Spivakov in Moscow. She has recorded the Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Warner Apex (0927-48307-2; 0927-48308-2). It will be interesting to see what colleagues make of those recordings.

Experience the singing classicism of Busoni's two numbered violin sonatas uniquely coupled with an extremely early work of his jewelled childhood, all ringingly performed by Lev and Raekallio.

Rob Barnett

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