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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    


 

Bruno WALTER (1876-1962)
Sonata for piano and violin
Karl GOLDMARK (1857-1934)

Suite No. 1 in D major for violin and piano, Opus 11
Philippe Graffin (violin, Pascal Devoyon (piano)
Rec 15-16 Jan 1999 (Walter, 23 June 2000 (Goldmark), Henry Wood Hall
HYPERION CDA67220 [64.41]


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The first thing to say about this new issue is that it has really spectacular recorded sound. So both pieces sound excellent, with real presence and an ideal ambience for this instrumental pairing. Full marks to the Hyperion engineers and producer, and full marks too for the company's enterprise in recording this unusual repertoire, in compositions by musicians with Viennese connections, whose careers took them much further afield too.

Bruno Walter is best known to us as a conductor, many of whose performances remain in today's catalogue a generation or more after they were made. This itself is testimony to his importance and calibre as a musician. The insert notes accompanying a recording take on a new interest when the music is little known, of course, and the stalwart efforts of Martin Anderson deserve praise in unearthing so many interesting facts about Walter. It does seem surprising, however, that no mention is made of his having been Mahler's protégé and that it was Mahler who brought him to Vienna from Hamburg.

As a composer Walter had all the appropriate training, but eventually decided that his creative efforts did not rate as highly as his performing career. On hearing this duo sonata, it is tempting to sympathise with his view. It is quite a substantial piece, more than thirty minutes long, knowingly put together and always sounding right. But somehow it doesn't seem to add up to much. None of the ideas is particularly striking, and it gave me the impression it is very typical of its period without having a great deal to say. This judgement did not change on subsequent hearings, although the performance by Graffin and Devoyon is thoroughly professional.

Goldmark's Suite dates from 1869, and is more direct and ingratiating. It makes no attempt at profundity, but the melodic lines are appealing and there is a certain vitality in the faster movements which balances well against the more introspective aspects of the work. He was a composer with a strong instinct for melody and instrumental colour, and these artists take advantage of their opportunities to give a most enjoyable performance.


Terry Barfoot


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