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Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Violin Sonata in E minor [23:44]
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
Violin Sonata No. 3 [15:38]
John IRELAND (1879-1962)
Violin Sonata No. 2 [24:31]
Buckhard Hofmann (violin); Alan Newcombe (piano)
rec. Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, Hamburg-Harburg, Germany, April 2003 (Elgar), September 2003 (Delius), December 2004 (Ireland). DDD
DECCA ELOQUENCE 476 6884 [63:53]
Experience Classicsonline


I must confess myself rather disappointed by this disc, and particularly by the weak performance of the opening work, Elgar’s violin sonata. The problem here is that Hofmann appears to have little affinity with Elgar’s music. The lack of understanding of the sonata is such that it comes across as if he were merely sight-reading the score fairly well – he certainly doesn’t seem to have thought about it, comprehended it, or glimpsed any of the underlying emotions or ideas. This is particularly apparent in the slow movement - a movement that should be utterly heartrending, yet here comes across as prosaic and pedestrian, lacking in feeling and understanding, and without any sympathy. Moments that should be overwhelmingly haunting and desperately beautiful seem to be just tossed aside. No poetry, no beauty – I’m afraid that Hofmann just does not appear to “get” this work. Although in places his playing is quite dramatic, it is as if he were supplanting Elgar’s emotions with his own histrionics, presumably because he is unable to comprehend what Elgar is doing. To make this sorry state even worse, Hofmann’s tone is too harsh and brash for this gorgeous music. His intonation is occasionally wobbly, and even his tuning is a bit suspect at times, creating a rather fumbling effect. The piano-violin balance also doesn’t seem quite right, and in any case Newcombe takes too much of a secondary role – he is too restrained for this passionate music.

The next work on the disc, Delius’s violin sonata no. 3, is quite an improvement on the Elgar. The playing here is very distant and detached, but this is not inappropriate for Delius – the remote air rather suits this music, and the performance comes across as wistful and restrained. However, there is not enough freedom and flexibility - particularly in the opening movement – it is too plodding, and doesn’t lilt enough! The performers also come across as rather stretched in the third movement.

The final work on the disc – the John Ireland Second Sonata - is, thankfully, the best of all. Newcombe takes more of a pro-active role. Hofmann seems to get into the piece much better. The overall work is fairly good.

There are many exquisite versions of all of these works out there and, although the Delius isn’t too bad and the Ireland is quite good, I deeply regret to say that I wouldn’t want anyone getting the wrong impression of the Elgar by listening to this disc.

Em Marshall


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