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Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Violin Sonata Op.82 (1918) [25:09]
Serenade (1932) arr. Joseph Szigeti [2:35]
Adieu (1932) arr. Joseph Szigeti [2:39]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Violin Sonata No.3 in C minor Op.45 (1887) [23:54]
From Hjertets Melodier Op.5 No.4 (1863-66): To Brune Oine [0:59]; Du Fatter Ei Bolgernes Evige Gang [1:41]
Charlie Siem (violin)
Andrei Korobeinikov (piano)
rec. Potton Hall, Suffolk, June 2007 
Experience Classicsonline

Charlie Siem draws attention to some parallels between Elgar and Grieg in his refreshingly different notes to this Challenge Classics disc. These go beyond the merely temporal – 2007, when this disc was recorded, saw the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Elgar’s birth and the centenary of Grieg’s death. Nationalism, doctorates and status, these are some of the areas touched upon though wisely they’re not pushed to excess.
What matters to the disc maven though is the nature of the performances.  These I’d characterise as “late-expressive”. Siem pursues some daringly elastic rubati in the first movement of Elgar’s increasingly popular sonata – strange how this work has suddenly come into fashion after long neglect. He maintains expressive interest even when the passagework, which in some other hands can seem sequential and unthrilling, is at its thickest – though the corollary is that he sometimes loses the thematic motor of the argument as a result. Meanwhile Andrei Korobeinikov is not afraid to assert himself with tumultuous extroversion at climactic points. They take a good tempo for the central movement, all the better to convey its caprice and the haunted spirit that underlies it. And the finale opens as a “clouds parting” moment albeit some quizzical phrasing soon reminds us that the sonata is bedecked with nostalgia and loss. Siem, rather like Daniel Hope, isn’t afraid of some throaty tone if it’s in the interests of heightened expression. The finale’s reminiscence section is played at speed and not indulgently. This is sensitive, inward, occasionally rather Brahmsian playing; not heroic.
This sense of inwardness resurfaces in the Grieg Sonata. Here, though, those things that might have given one slight concern in the Elgar are magnified. The opening movement, whilst sensitively done, sags because Siem and Korobeinikov – though principally one feels the violinist – make too great a contrast between themes and the rubato stretches well beyond natural limits. I liked the pianist’s articulation in the second movement – very delicate and refined – whilst the finale promotes reflection rather at the expense of lyricism. It’s useful to hear the promotion of a different kind of approach once in a while though it sounds too imposed for my tastes.
There are some miniatures to tickle the ear. The two Elgar ones are those edited by Szigeti and recorded by him on 78s. They’re both charmingly done especially Adieu with its remembrance of the composer’s Violin Concerto. They suit the reflective tenor of the programme well. The Grieg sweetmeats are briefer still but raptly done.
Fine recorded sound graces all the performances. If you like “close of day” approaches to these two sonatas you may find these performances very much to your liking.
Jonathan Woolf


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