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Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879-1936)
Compositions for violin and piano:

Sonata in D minor for Violin and Piano (1897)
Six Pieces for Violin and Piano (1902-1905)
Sonata in B minor for Violin and Piano (1917)
Ingolf Turban (Violin) and Katia Nemirovitch-Dantchenko (piano)
Recorded at the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Stuttgart, in May, July and September, 2001
CLAVES CD 50-2109 [70:34]
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This new Claves CD is most welcome although its assertion that the recording of the Six Pieces for Violin and Piano is a world premiere is inaccurate for there is a version on Chandos CHAN 9962 with Respighi’s Piano Quintet and String Quartet (1909). However, the new recording is most welcome. Respighi admirers will no doubt remember that the violinist, Ingolf Turban featured, with the English Chamber Orchestra on another well-received Claves Respighi album (CD 50-9017) recorded in 1990. That recording comprised the Chaconne for Violin, Organ and Strings (1908); the "Concerto All’antica" for Violin and Orchestra; Pastorale for Violin and Strings, and the "Concerto a cinque" for Oboe, Trumpet, Violin and Double Bass, Piano and Strings.

Claves claim this recording of the Sonata in D minor to be a world premiere too. Wrongly - the work has appeared on the Nuova Era and Dynamic labels. It was composed in 1897 when Respighi was still a student in Bologna but it already shows an assurance in its striking deployment of both instruments. Respighi was an excellent pianist as well as a virtuoso violinist and violist. The Sonata’s opening movement has youthful energy and lyricism. The influences are Schumann, Mendelssohn and Brahms, the melodies beautiful and delicate, and salon music-like. The other movements have a Brahmsian orientation with hints of Franck and Strauss. The Adagio central movement exhibits a deeply felt introspection with harmonic colourings that hold the ear while the Scherzo:Allegretto finale has an overt Brahmsian charm. Turban and Nemirovich-Dantchenko, complementing each other beautifully, deliver a reading full of charm and refinement.

All Six Pieces for Violin and Piano also have considerable charm. This is salon music – unashamedly sentimental and sweetly melodic. In fact Respighi is recalling memories and emotions in an almost child-like direct manner. The titles of the pieces suggest the music: Aria, Melodia, Serenata, Berceuse, Valse caressante, and Leggenda. The effulgent Valse caressante is especially beguiling. Turban and Nemirovich-Dantchenko play with sensitivity and no sign of condescension (as do Marcia Crayford and Diana Ambache on the Chandos disc).

The considerable 28-minute Sonata in B minor for Violin and Piano is a more mature piece in Respighi’s fully developed harmonic language. Composed in 1917, it quickly became Respighi’s best-known chamber work. Many artists championed it including Jascha Heifetz. The concluding Passacaglia was regarded as masterly - a fine example of the composer’s polished craft. Again, expansive romantic melodies are the immediate appeal. The first movement is resolved within a conventional sonata form, its mood more profoundly introspective than the earlier compositions in this compilation. The beautiful middle cantabile movement begins with dreamy, rippling piano figures with the violin joining to sing sadly, resignedly, the mood becoming more intense in a passionately expressive central Appassionato.

Another important addition to the Respighi discography. Melodic romantic works played with refinement and sensitivity.

Ian Lace

See also review by Rob Barnett

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Sonata in D minor for Violin and Piano P15

Lento-Assai animato

Scherzo: Allegretto

Six pieces for Violin and Piano P31
Valse caressante

Sonata in B minor for Violin and Piano P110
Andante Espressivo

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