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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Violin Sonata in G major, Hob.XV:32
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

Violin Sonata
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Violin Sonata in A major, D574
Fantasy for violin and piano in C major, D934
Yehudi Menuhin (violin), Benjamin Britten (piano)
Rec 16 June 1957, Blythburgh Church (Schubert Fantasy); 27 June 1959, Aldeburgh Church (remainder)
BBC LEGENDS BBCL4083-2 [68.57]



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The duo partnership of Yehudi Menuhin and Benjamin Britten was regularly renewed over the years, having started at the end of the Second World War when they made a famous tour of the liberated concentration camps. They never made commercial recordings together, which makes this BBC Legends issue all the more interesting.

The performances come from the Aldeburgh Festivals of 1957 and 1959, and therefore come into the 'historical' category. They sound quite well, although the levels of background hiss require a little tolerance. Also these are live performances, and there are occasional unwanted contributions from the audiences.

The performances have all the benefits and drawbacks of live occasions. In particular Menuhin is prone to the occasional roughness of tone, but this is not enough to mar the intensity and sweep of the interpretations. Two of the pieces featured are undoubted masterpieces, while the other two are interesting byways. Haydn's Sonata comes into the latter category, a slight piece in two movements which is not without its charms. While Tully Potter's insert notes are full of interesting information relating the artists to the music, it is unfortunate that they do not inform us of the provenance of this little known Haydn sonata.

The Schubert Sonata is admirably lyrical, and sustains its extensive time-scale, while the Fantasy is another glorious outpouring from the composer's final phase (when he was still a young man, of course). The real challenge in this piece lies in the lengthy theme and variations movement, which is some twelve minutes long, and Menuhin and Britten sustain it superbly.

The Debussy Sonata gets off to a messy start - perhaps the editors ought to revisit it - but thereafter the balance of the ensemble allows details to emerge at every turn. For this is a really interesting release featuring two of the 20th century's greatest musicians.


Terry Barfoot


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