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Bruno WALTER (1876-1962)
Sonata for piano and violin (1908) [34:20]
Karl GOLDMARK (1857-1934)

Suite No. 1 in D major for violin and piano, Op. 11 (1869) [30:21]
Philippe Graffin (violin, Pascal Devoyon (piano)
Rec 15-16 Jan 1999 (Walter, 23 June 2000 (Goldmark), Henry Wood Hall
HYPERION CDA67220 [64.41]

I was prompted to review this disc by a pretty happy encounter with Linnís anthology of songs by Strauss, Marx and Walter. The Walter songs struck me as fresh, vivid and poetically engaging: review

Digging deeper I wondered about Walterís other compositions largely despised and rejected by a man who was to rise to sustained fame as a conductor. There are two symphonies (1907, 1910), Das Siegesfest (Schiller) for soli, chorus and orchestra (1907), a string quartet (1903), a piano quintet (1904), a piano trio (1906), a violin sonata (1908) and various songs. I am indebted to the liner notes provided by Martin Anderson whose adventurous Toccata Classics label has just (September 2005) been launched.

Goldmark, best known for his Violin Concerto (beloved of Nathan Milstein) wrote several pieces for violin and piano. There are two suites (1869, 1893), a violin sonata (1874) as well as various smaller genre pieces. The notes suggest a baroque influence but it passes right by me. What I hear is a sequence of five romantic movements spun from the heritage of Schumann but looking towards the grace and smiles of Bruch and DvořŠk. True there is a certain Bachian repose in the cantilena of the andante sostenuto but it is given the hybrid treatment with bardic arpeggiation from the piano. The finale is busy, brisk and breezy with a nod towards Mozart but a deeper obeisance to the Beethoven of the first two piano concertos. This is a work long on smiles; short on sighs.

The Walter Violin Sonata is lavishly proportioned though still twenty minutes shorter than Marxís First Sonata. While I might take issue over the memorability of the Goldmark finale I entirely agree with Mr Andersonís nice parallel drawn between the style of the Walter and the music of the precociously blessed Korngold who in 1908 lived upstairs from the Walters in Vienna at Theobaldgasse. The music is determinedly tonal and typically late romantic. In the first movement the piano uses a foreboding-heavy echo of the fate motif from Beethovenís Fifth Symphony. The work has a number of intensely imaginative moments such as the syncopated sinister bass reflections of the Andante serioso. The third and final movement is a rather bitty Moderato in which Brahmsian manner meets Korngold-like sensuousness and dignified poetry.

Throughout Graffin and Devoyon respond with thoughtful poetry rather than unbridled abandon - such is the nature of this music.

Rob Barnett

See also review by Terry Barfoot


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