Bruno WALTER (1876-1962)
Violin Sonata in A major (1910) [34:41]
Hans PFITZNER (1869-1949)
Violin Sonata in E minor (1918) [33:30]
The Orfeo Duo (Vita Wallace (violin); Ishmael Wallace (piano))
rec. 4, 7 August 1997 (Walter), 4 September 1997 (Pfitzner), Bronx, New York City. DDD
VAI AUDIO VAIA 1155 [67:38]

Here are two fully fledged expansive violin sonatas marinaded to the core in late-romantic juices.

Neither composer lacked confidence and although Walter was soon to give up composition this sonata lacked ambition, compelling drive and accomplishment. One might link the sound of this piece with the succulence of 1920s Marx and the manner of Brahms. If Walter's earlier Symphony smacks somewhat of Mahler this is closer to the second sonata of John Ireland but on Viennese steroids. I should point out that Walter actually entitled the piece Sonata for piano and violin. It's a work in which Walter squares up to the eternal verities and the mountain ranges of emotion. There's nothing of the drawing room in this and even the gawky habanera echoes in the Andante serioso have an earnest character. The Sonata was premiered by none other than Arnold Rosť the leader of the Vienna Phil. The finale is the most intensely romantic of the three and in it one can occasionally suspect that Walter had a high regard for the compositions of wunderkind Erich Korngold.

The friendship between Walter and Pfitzner was closer and more trusting than that between Walter and Mahler whose symphonies he conducted. Walter championed Pfitzner's Palestrina and promoted a week-long Pfitzner concert series in 1917 in Munich. The E minor sonata was completed during 1918 and premiered in Munich on 25 September 1918 with the composer as pianist and the violinist Felix Berber. This is a most singingly romantic and lyrical work with high-flying and long-spun melodic lines. It's a delight and can be compared with that turbulent but equally eloquent powerhouse of lyricism, the John Foulds Cello Sonata in its unstoppable flow; who would want to try to stop it. The ideas and their treatment are lissom and carry none of the adipose tissue of late-romanticism run to seed. The radiance of the finale suggests admiration for the classic Schubert and Beethoven trios.

Each of these works has, since 1997, been recorded by others but this is a unique pairing. The recording is warm and close and the music-making streams forward in a golden flux.

Rob Barnett

Two fully fledged expansive violin sonatas marinaded to the core in late-romantic juices.