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For Two Violins
Eugène YSAŸE (1858-1931)

Sonata for Two Violins, Op. Posth (1915) [34'04].
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)

Duo (1945) [5'04]. Sonatine, Op. 231 (1940) [8'06].
Arthur HONEGGER (1892-1955)

Sonatine (1920) [7'52].
Thomas Christian, Daniela Priemesberger (violins).
Rec. Studio 2 des BR on November 9th-11th, 2004. DDD
CPO 777 159-2 [55'30]

The Ysaÿe is quite a remarkable work. Each piece on this disc is given a fanciful subtitle by the booklet-note writer, Hans Winking. For this work, he comes up with, 'Symphonic Virtuosity on Eight Strings' and listening to the Sonata it is easy to see what he means. There are three movements (11'52 + 7'58 + 14'01). Textures can be astonishingly rich, something Christan and Priemesberger seem to relish. The recording is big-boned, too, and the duo's performance realises the composer's rhetoric exactly while still revealing myriad detailing. Phrasing can be pointed and even delightful – overall this is superbly interesting music, realised with the utmost confidence.

The gentle opening of the middle 'Allegretto poco lento' does become more resolute later. The final dying away is excellently graded, leading to the serious and concentrated finale - not to mention difficult. It is difficult for the listener, too, but brings with it rich rewards. Superb virtuosity from both players here.

Two works by Milhaud ('Or, the Terror of the Groupe des Six' – Winking) essentially mean twice the treat. The Duo opens with a characteristic touch of acidity, soon threatening towards bitonality - but not actually truly getting there. The melancholy slow movement (a Romance) blossoms into real warmth, leading to a playful Gigue. The Sonatine was written on an overnight train journey (October 13th-14th, 1940)! The delicate, light opening movement reveals the telepathy between Christian and Priemesberger. Delicacy is once more the order of the day (or night, thinking about it) for the expressive Barcarolle with its nice use of pizzicato before the dancing and vital Rondo finale.

Finally, some Honegger ('or, The Tradition as Avant-Garde'), whose first movement provides moments of real delight and rises to an impressive close. Best of all, though, is the ghostly, almost whispered Andantino. The slithery imitations of the finale have a lot going for them, though. This work is, appropriately in this context, dedicated to Milhaud.

To be entirely frank I wasn't sure I'd enjoy an entire disc of music for two violins. I was grinning by the end of it. Wholeheartedly recommended.

 

Colin Clarke

 

 

 



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