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Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Violin Sonata No. 1 in F major Op. 8 (1865) [20:27]
Violin Sonata No. 2 in G major Op. 13 (1867) [20:14]
Violin Sonata No. 3 in C minor Op. 45 (1887) [23:10]
At Home: Op. 43 No. 3 [2:15]; Puck: Op. 71 No. 3 [1:45]; Lonely Wanderer: Op. 43 No. 2 [1:49]; Scherzo-Impromptu: Op. 73 No. 2 [2:36]; Grandmother’s Minuet: Op. 68 No. 2 [1:53]; Dance from Jölster: Op. 17 No. 5 [1:37] (arr. Joseph Achron)
Hagai Shaham (violin), Arnon Erez (piano)

rec. 8-10 October 2004, Henry Wood Hall, London
HYPERION CDA67504 [76:20]


It is always the case that an important composer will be widely known for only a fragment of his output and, by that token, of his achievement. Although these violin sonatas hardly rate as new discoveries, they are much less celebrated than the Piano Concerto or the Peer Gynt music. Yet they find Grieg at the height of his powers, with technique and inspiration in potent combination.

The first two sonatas are relatively early, and as such they must be among the first manifestations of Grieg’s stature. For each has its own distinctive personality, while each also finds the composer in full command of the duo combination as a partnership of equals. Full marks then to the collaboration of Shaham and Erez, and to the Hyperion recording, which has such a natural perspective. For example, the violin tone in climactic passages, such as the second movement of Op. 8, is particularly imposing and effective.

The two players bring to the music a spontaneous flow along with a detailed yet carefree observation of Grieg’s performance instructions. The music’s natural line of development gains as a result, although other performances have achieved more intensity of expression. For example, greater volatility can be found in the approach adopted by Agustin Dumay and Maria João Pires (DG 477 525 2GH).

On occasions the quasi-classical style of Shaham and Erez, with its emphasis on line and momentum, can miss touches of poetry, such as during the passages of restrained dynamics in the slow movement in the Sonata No. 2. Not that they are insensitive to the musical nuances, it is simply a matter of interpretation and artistic priority, since their choices remain thoroughly appropriate. As a mark of their success, great moments such as the arrival of the ‘big tune’ in the dance-like finale of the Sonata No. 3 can be heard for all they are worth.

As a welcome bonus to the sonatas, Joseph Achron’s attractive arrangements of several of Grieg’s piano pieces are also included. These are mainly a matter of violin with piano accompaniment, but the directness and charm of these miniatures is always felt, whether in faster numbers such as the Scherzo-Impromptu, or via more expressive items such as At Home or The Lonely Wanderer.

Terry Barfoot



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