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CD: Eckhardt-Gramatte Foundation

Sophie-Carmen ECKHARDT-GRAMATTÉ (1901-1974)
February Suite (1934) [44:21]
Robert Comrie TURNER (b.1920)
Violin Sonata [19:20]
Jack Glatzer (violin); Delores Jerde Keahey (piano)
rec. Century 21 Studios, Winnipeg, Canada, 1989 DDD
Experience Classicsonline

Sophie-Carmen Eckhardt-Gramatté's February Suite was written shortly after her second marriage. It is the epitome of her early romantically eloquent style. The work seems to have been disdained by the composer who under the influence of her studies with Max Trapp in Berlin in the mid-late-1930s turned towards dissonance. Even so, she did not destroy the score and it came to light in a basement in Winnipeg in 1980 after her death. After a couple of performances in the 1930s it sank from sight and its first performance in modern times was by the two artists featured here. The music is confidently, indeed joyously, late nineteenth century. Its romantic substance seems to reference various composers. Without quite his complexity it might be an early work by Korngold. In the major first movement you can add a Bach-like severity. Later episodes take in elements of Chopin and Brahms. The whole reflects joie-de-vivre - it is surely no coincidence that it is dedicated to her second husband, carries the name of the month in which they married and was completed within six months of the wedding. So there you have it, an exuberant romantic piece with good ideas that yield up their eloquent potential to a composer more associated with dissonance than late-romanticism.

The coupling is the Violin Sonata by Montreal-born Robert Turner. He is a graduate of McGill who studied at London's RCM (Howells and Jacob) and later with Messiaen and Roy Harris. His other teachers included Claude Champagne - we need to hear more of his music, too! He held teaching positions at various US and Canadian universities and retired in 1985. Turner’s music includes a string quartet no. 1 (1949), a Symphony for Strings (1960), a Third Symphony (1990), a viola concerto and several operas amongst many other works. The Second Symphony (1983) is in one movement and carries the title Gift from the Sea. You can find full details in the online Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. The Sonata was commissioned by the Harry Adaskin and Frances Marr duo and premiered by them in 1956 at Vancouver Art Gallery. The liner-note by Delores Keahey prepares us for the presence of a twelve-tone row. However it is freely deployed and accessibly transformed. One might almost be listening to a third violin sonata by John Ireland or Thomas Dunhill had they lived into the 1970s. It's a demanding work of considerable variety and fascinating incident. The brief Aria alla chaconne is strikingly contemplative. But the finale with its sauntering, lyrical vigour and tramping relaxation sets the seal on a very satisfying piece of music. Violin duos should seek it out.

The recording is ever so slightly claustrophobic but is vivid enough to match the evidently committed performances.

Rob Barnett


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