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Arthur de GREEF (1862-1940)
Violin Sonata No. 1 in D minor (1896 rev 1932) [15:37]
Violin Sonata No. 2 in C minor (1933) [22:15]
Sonata in C minor for two pianos (1928) [22:30]
Nico Baltussen (violin), Catherine Mertens, Luc Devos (piano)
rec. 1998?
TALENT DOM2910 24 [57:52]



Ronald J Dom’s label has been working away quietly in Antwerp since the mid-1990s. Only in recent years has its unhackneyed approach to A&R started to nudge its way into the broader international market.
 
These are passionate performances of passionate music written or revised in temporal exile from the decades when its style was common. Truly the past was in De Greef’s case a different country. However he held true to his star.
 
De Greef had been a pupil of both Liszt and Saint-Saëns. He popularised the Grieg Piano Concerto throughout Europe. There’s a symphony and two piano concertos in C minor (1914, dedicated to Saint-Saëns and 1930) from his own hand. The two concertos have been recorded by Andre de Groote on Naxos on 8.223810.
 
A slightly tremulous and wiry violin tone from Baltussen does nothing to dampen these romantic sonatas. They were probably written as a product of the friendship between De Greef and Eugène Ysaÿe. The First Sonata is passionately redolent of the Franck and Grieg sonatas and in the swirlingly romantic and tempestuous finale there’s even a passing similarity to the Grieg piano concerto. The Second Sonata has its centre of gravity removed from that of the First. It has about it a stronger fragrance of the Franck and an even more powerful philosophical bent. We hear this in the potent unshowy writing that ends the first movement. However the salon style grotesquerie of the Romance makes for an awkward gear change when it comes to the middle movement. There’s a gangly protesting brusqueness about the Tumultueux finale which finally dissipates in a becalmed seascape before the splendidly impassioned and ripely romantic closing pages.
 
The Sonata for Two Pianos was premiered at the Brussels Royal Music Conservatory on 21 April 1928 by two of De Greef’s female pupils. It’s a darker work than the two violin sonatas with conflicts and tensions resolved in some clangorously grand Rachmaninovian statements (I, 4:04; III 3:12, 4:20) in the outer parts of the three movement structure. That seriousness of purpose relaxes somewhat in the face of the Litolff-like bravado of the central Très vif. I cannot help thinking that De Greef must have intended to work up this sonata into a piano concerto. Mertens and Devos are well matched and are forthrightly recorded.
 
The violin sonatas are richly enjoyable and will appeal to anyone with a taste for Franck, Grieg and Rachmaninov.
 
Rob Barnett

 



 


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