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Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879-1936)
Sonata in D minor for violin and piano P15 (1897) [19.56]
Six Pieces for violin and piano P31 (1902-05) [22.42]
Violin Sonata in B minor P110 (1917) [27.46]
Ingolf Turban (violin)
Katia Nemirovitch-Dantchenko (piano)
Recorded at the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst, Stuttgart, May, July and September 2001
CLAVES 50-2109 [70.34]

At the time these performances were issued the Six Pieces and the early 1897 sonata were claimed as first ever recordings. Assuming that to be true there have since been others Ė though I do seem to remember having seen the Pieces before the release of this 2001 recording. Whatever the state of play with regard to prestigious premiere discs itís always good to be rewarded with the 1917 sonata, one of the twentieth centuryís best examples of the genre but one that has garnered, oddly, fewer recordings than one would have expected. There have been the celebrity discs, Heifetzís most especially, but I was surprised to see no more than half a dozen discs in the current British catalogue.

But letís start with that 1897 sonata, full of big, grand gestures and plying the Schumann-Brahmsian axis very adeptly, as befits a violinist-composer. The crest of the first movement, strenuous and chock full of driving passagework, still sounds rather unsatisfying and unconvincing however. A similar lack (ultimately) of definition afflicts the lyrical Schumannesque slow movement though itís well laid out for the two instruments; the finale is better - Brahmsian in cast, certainly, but with some off-kilter gestures that attract the ear and almost manage to offset the gauche gestures and the rather repetitious writing. Turban and Nemirovitch-Dantchenko do what they can; maybe too much. Turban has recorded widely and I know heís admired but he employs some rather arch expressive devices to heat up the romanticised profile of a work that needs to be taken rather straighter. His smeary lower string vibrato sounds out of scale to me, and the slides forced rather than felt.

The melodious Six Pieces, a compound of the salon and the recital hall, are winning and warm. Itís a shame that the Melodia, the second of them, is vibrated to death by Turban but the players do well by the waltz and the Leggenda even if they canít really salvage the more over ambitious pages of the over wrought Serenata. The Sonata receives an uneven performance with a rather slow opening movement and a tendency towards diffusion. This is something that also applies to the recording throughout; thereís not a proper balance between instruments with the piano somewhat veiled. It may contribute to a feeling of relative shapelessness in the slow movement; listen to the classic Suk-Hála recording (not currently available domestically) and you can hear how a more thrusting traversal explores peaks and troughs. Again I find Turban less than effective when he juices up his tone with smeary vibrato in the Passacaglia finale; he sounds stolid not expressive.

Given these caveats I would suggest alternative recordings. The recording level is a basic concern and the playing never really gets to the heart of the matter.

Jonathan Woolf

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