Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
Violin Sonatas (complete)
Violin Sonata in B major (1892), Op. posth. [26:22]
Violin Sonata No. 1 (1905-15) [21:12]
Violin Sonata No. 2 (1923) [11:38]
Violin Sonata No. 3 (1930) [18:02]
Susanne Stanzeleit (violin); Gusztav Fenyo (piano)
rec. St Silas, Camden Town, London, 14-16 February 1994. DDD
NAXOS 8.572261 [77:13] 
See also review by Ian Lace

This Naxos disc features all of Delius’s violin sonatas, from the 1892, discarded, sonata through to the third sonata, composed in 1930 with the help of Delius’s amanuensis, Eric Fenby. The sonatas are here presented chronologically, commencing with the Sonata in B major, which the composer discounted when he could not find a publisher for it - hence it was not issued until 1977, and is un-numbered.

Although the recording sets the violin a little far back - with the result that it perhaps comes across as a little restricted and lacking in fullness of tone - the first movement is nonetheless gloriously romantic, with insightful and radiant playing from Stanzeleit. Fenyo fully enters into the spirit of the work and is sensitive and accomplished - although possibly a little too strong at times. The second movement is rather restrained, but the performers create dramatic contrasts between the louder and quieter sections - a device which works well here. The final movement is given a powerful performance - Stanzeleit really captures this well, and the sonata ends on a strong and bold note.

Much of Stanzeleit‘s rendition of the 1915 (three-movement) first sonata is very idiomatic - she gets the feel of ‘the Delius sound’ well, and gives a particularly ecstatic performance of the final movement.

The second sonata was composed in 1923 when Delius was already an invalid. It could be argued to be the sonata that best encapsulates Delius’s ‘voice’. Stanzeleit here gives it a muscular and confident performance, getting into, and communicating, the idiom well.

The disc concludes with the third sonata. This is also well-played, with some pleasing shading in the violin tone in the second movement, and the performers also capture the quirkiness of this movement well.

There are several discs of Delius’s violin sonatas available, but this is a strong contender, and for a budget price disc you can’t go wrong with this recording.

Em Marshall