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CD: Crotchet

Leoš JANÁČEK (1854–1928)
Violin Sonata (1914/1922) [17:20]
Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882–1937)
Mythes, op.30 (1915) [20:45]
Georges ENESCO (1881–1955)
Violin Sonata No.3 in A, dans le caractčre populaire roumain, op.25 (1926) [24:18]
Béla BARTÓK (1881–1945)
First Rhapsody (1928) [10:20]
David Grimal (violin); Georges Pludermacher (piano)
rec. January 2008, Sion, Switzerland. DDD
Experience Classicsonline

Now here’s a disk worthy of our attention – four major 20th century works for violin and piano, all written within fifteen years of each other by four very different composers, and each displaying contrasting ideas of construction and thought.
If ever there was a maverick, a true wild card, in early 20th century music Leoš Janáček must stand head and shoulders above the rest. Writing music which seems totally inspirational, without regard for form he juxtaposed radically conflicting material yet moulded it all into a satisfying whole. The works he conceived after about 1910 rank amongst the greatest the musical world has seen, and heard. The Violin Sonata heard on this disk is no exception to this rule. In four quite fantastic, in the phantasmagorical sense, movements this work is an emotion-driven ride which, once it’s got hold of you, never lets go. Grimal plays it well, but misses the wild abandon of the piece. He simply fails to let his hair down, and thus it’s a bit too polite.
No such problems with his performance of the three Szymanowski Mythes. Written at the same time as the 3rd Symphony and the magisterial 1st Violin Concerto, the work is full of erotic sensuality and the mysticism derived from Scriabin which he was still employing. It wouldn’t be long before Szymanowski turned to folk and traditional sources and his style changed radically. This rich, late romantic, music suits Grimal to the ground and he is very happy, and comfortable, with the spiritual charge of the work. The wide-ranging solo line is imbued with a strength and power, but it is never overdone, and the delicacy of much of the music is well realised.
Enesco’s 3rd Sonata, in the popular Roumanian style, seems to enshrine the soul of some long gone peasant fiddler. We have been spoiled by the fact that Enesco himself made a fine recording of this work - with Cécily Chailley-Richez, in Paris in 1949. Everyone has to stand beside that interpretation, which really is something very special. Being the superb violinist that he was Enesco the performer can give Enesco the composer that extra insight into the heart of the music. He also brings to his performance an improvisatory feel such as might have happened when the old fiddler was playing and extemporizing his music by the flickering light of the camp fire. That Grimal gets nowhere near the inspirational, improvisational or folk fiddler feel necessary for this work is no reflection on him. This is as fine a performance as you could want – expertly played and interpreted – but what Enesco so obviously wanted, as he displays in his recording, seems elusive to every violinist I have ever heard playing this work. That includes Yehudi Menuhin on EMI and Sophie Langdon live in the Wigmore Hall some 20 years ago – two of the best in my experience so far.
Bartók’s First Rhapsody is much more stylized folk fiddling and Grimal gives it all he’s got. This makes a joyous finish to an interesting disk filled with superb fiddling, and fabulous keyboard dexterity from Pludermacher – a name I haven’t heard for some time. On the strength of his playing here I wonder why. Despite my comments concerning Enesco’s works, which are not meant as criticisms, this is a disk well worth having for it is a marvellous exposition of these pieces, which we seldom hear in the concert hall.
Bob Briggs


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