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CD: Tandem Sonates


Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Sonata for 2 violins, Op. 56 (1932) [15:32]
Arthur HONEGGER (1892-1955)
Sonatine for 2 violins, H.29 (1920) [7:54]
Eugčne YSAźE (1858 - 1931)
Sonata for 2 violins, Op. Posth (1914) [33:43]
Frédéric Angleraux (violin)
Raphaël Oleg (violin)
rec. 1999, Fontevraud Abbey, France. DDD
Experience Classicsonline

Titled Tandem, this disc of three twentieth century scores for 2 violins was recorded at Fontevraud Abbey in the depths of the French countryside. A self-produced project undertaken nine years ago it was for various reasons consigned to the drawer until the enterprising performers Frédéric Angleraux and Raphaël Oleg took the bull by the horns and decided to market the recording themselves. It is worth noting that the booklet notes are in French with an English translation available on the Tandem website. The recording is only available online (see above).
I was surprised to discover that after the end of Ysa˙e’s third movement at point 12:42 (track 10) there is a gap of just under a minute before an uncredited “ghost track” located at points 13:34-16:44. Frédéric Angleraux has explained to me that this very quiet music, placed just after Ysa˙e’s huge final movement is, “a kind of gift to the listener.” The piece, it seems, is an excerpt titled Aldo’ one of Luciano Berio’s Duets for two violins. It didn’t really sit right with me that this “ghost track” was not listed anywhere in the annotation but then if it was I suppose it wouldn’t be a “ghost track.”
Whilst in exile in Paris from his Russian homeland Prokofiev composed his uncompromising four movement Sonata for 2 violins, Op. 56 in 1932. It was intended for the inaugural recital of Triton - a Parisian music society group who supported new chamber music in the city. Ironically the actual premiere took place in Moscow a few years later. The opening movement, an Andante has a mysterious, almost eerie highly controlled sound-world. With spiky and headstrong rhythms, the Allegro is played with an earnest enthusiasm that contrasts with the Andante which has a cool tranquillity and just a suggestion of anxiety. The finale movement - a Presto - has folksy rhythms that Prokofiev develops into a more serious and complex character.
Honegger’s Sonatine for 2 violins was completed in 1920 and premiered by the composer and his friend Darius Milhaud, the dedicatee of the score. Lasting just under eight minutes the title of Sonatine infers a rather modest work that disguises the durability and energy of the music. In the opening movement there is an angular detachment to Honegger’s writing that also manages to maintain a certain charm and I was impressed with the level headed calmness of the Andantino. In the closing movement - marked Allegro moderato - a chill wind blows through a bleak urban landscape. The dramatic impression of the music made me shiver. Perhaps in homage to J.S. Bach a cunning little fugue appears in the central section.
Ysa˙e’s Sonata for 2 violins composed around 1914 was intended for Queen Elizabeth of Belgium who was a capable violinist. However, the technicalities of the score, it seems, proved too difficult for the monarch. Ysa˙e’s Sonata for two violins -   a work of considerable proportions - is I believe masterwork of the genre. The varying moods of the opening movement contain music tinged with a dark solemnity.  Ysa˙e’s writing is not without a considerable degree of virtuosity and a fugue appears in the central section. The central movement marked Poco lento is intensely passionate music with impressionistic tenancies. Here Ysa˙e is surely providing a musical description of love affair. I was struck by the cool, steely quality of the beautiful closing movement, in Rondo form. It presents the players with considerable technical difficulty.
There are not too many works in the repertoire for two violins and it is good to see these three sonatas in harness. Of other twentieth century works I recall that E. J. Moeran composed a Sonata for two violins, R53 in 1930. There’s also Miklós Rózsa’s Sonata for two violins, >Op. 15a (1933, rev. 1973) and Darius Milhaud’s scores for two violins: the Duo (1945) and the Sonatine, Op. 231 (1940).
This beautifully produced recording from Frédéric Angleraux and Raphaël Oleg is a fusion of talent in perfect harmony. This is enhanced by the highly attractive tones of their instruments.
Clearly a labour of love for the performers, I consider this enterprising release a tremendous artistic success. My choices for ‘Records of the Year’ 2008 have already been made but the disc is certainly a contender for my 2009 selections.
Michael Cookson


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