Hymn of Jesus:
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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]
Luc Devos (piano)
DOM2910 24 [57:52]
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
violin sonatas are richly enjoyable and will appeal to anyone
with a taste for Franck, Grieg and Rachmaninov.
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