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Classical Editor in Chief: Rob Barnett
Belá BARTÓK (1881 - 1945)
Sonata for Solo Violin
Zoltán KODÁLY (1882 - 1967)
Duo Op. 7
Gerard Poulet (violin); Christoph Henkel (cello)
Recorded at Chateau de Ripaille, Thonon des Bains, Haute-Savoie, France on May 14th-17th, 1987
HARMONIC RECORDS HCD8717 [47’13]
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This is an inspired coupling of two masterpieces for strings. The playing time may indeed be low (47 minutes), but the sheer concentration of ideas (and the reciprocal response from Poulet and Henschel) make for a powerful listening experience.
Belonging to Bartók’s final period (commissioned by Yehudi Menuhin in 1943 and composed in 1944), the Sonata for Solo Violin is a masterpiece, and Poulet plays it as such. There is a gritty determination to his playing which suits the piece, complemented with an almost exquisite lyricism: listen to the way he spins a line in the first movement (7’30-45), and contrast this with the ‘buzzing’ finale.
Poulet has a sweet tone that is heard to best effect in the third movement, ‘Melodia’. He also possesses an inspiring command of his instrument which means the listener can concentrate on Bartók’s musical processes. The disc is worth the price for this performance alone.
Zoltán Kodály’s Duo, Op. 7, dates from 1914. Poulet is joined by the cellist, Christoph Henkel (whose instrument apparently at one time belonged to John Barbirolli). The opening movement brings out the best in both players (Poulet is exquisitely toned at 6’30, Henkel’s rich tone complementing him excellently.
Poulet and Henkel create palpable tension in the slow movement, as the composer creates large, desolate pitch spaces between the instruments.
The recording, which dates from May 1987, is exemplary.
To reiterate: do not be put off by the low playing time: there are rich rewards here.
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