Suites and Sweets
Henry COWELL (1897-1965)
Suite for violin and piano (1926) [11:28]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Suite Italienne (1926) [18:27]
Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957)
Suite from Much Ado About Nothing (1918) [13:33]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
Canciones populares españolas (1914) arr. Kochanski [13:14]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Pièce en Forme de Habanera [2:49]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Meditation from Thais (1894) [4:38]
Jessica Mathaes (violin)
Rodney Waters (piano)
rec. July 2008, KUHF Studios, Houston, Texas
CENTAUR CRC 2993 [64:08]
It’s a cute title. Jessica Mathaes and Rodney Waters have judged the temperature of the Cowell Suite nicely and bring assurance to its baroque-leaning violin legato, ensuring that the piano buffets this deceptive calm as noisily as it can. The lovely Handelian Andante tranquillo acts as the central movement of the five but it’s not long before the concentrated lyricism cultivated by the violin in the Andante calmato is assailed by the fractious, dogmatic and argumentative piano.
The rest of the programme enters, in market terms anyway, shark-infested waters. Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne is well balanced, and discreetly played. Mathaes, concertmaster of the Austin Symphony, reserves greater tonal edge for the Tarantella though a sprightlier tempo might have characterised things more graphically. This is a clean-limbed, spruce reading all round.
The Korngold Suite is similarly quite lightly played, not in any way seeking to reproduce – were it even possible – the voluptuary throb of the composer’s own recording with the molten Toscha Seidel. The duo is rhythmically upright and upholstered in Dogberry and Verges and is suitably chaste in the Garden Scene, the most famous movement, as they had earlier been in the Bridal scene; Seidel was positively lascivious here.
There are some well judged tempo decisions in the de Falla Canciones populares españolas. Once again the balance between instruments has been well attended to by the recording team. The performance is rather on the low-key side and lacks a certain sense of projection. These pieces are so well known that they need a bit of bite and whilst this is neat and enjoyable playing, you need only cite, say, Kogan’s live 1963 Moscow performance, to hear how the six pieces can come alluringly alive.

There are two ‘sweets’ and they are deftly but not over-warmly played.

If you’re searching for the Cowell you can try Cheryl Seltzer and Joel Sachs (Naxos 8.559192 – an all-Cowell chamber disc). But if you want it in the context of a chamber recital which lines up this disparate selection then you’ll find it most attractively done here.
Jonathan Woolf
Attractively done ... see Full Review