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Wilhelm FURTWÄNGLER (1886-1954)
Violin Sonata No.2 in D major, WF 115 (1938-39) [42:17]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Sonata No.8 in G major, Op. 30/3 (1801-02) [18:17]
Sophie Moser (violin); Katja Huhn (piano)
rec. 23-25 October 2008, Augustusplatz, MDR, Leipzig, Germany (Furtwängler); 30 December 2005, Studio 2, Bayerischen Rundfunks, Munich
German with English translation.

Experience Classicsonline

Sophie Moser and Katja Huhn have chosen an absorbing programme of two contrasting violin sonatas. Firstly there’s a rarely-heard score byf Wilhelm Furtwängler: his difficult and serious Second Sonata.The coupling is Beethoven’s optimistic Sonata No. 8 in G major,much better known but often overshadowed by the composer’s more famous Spring and Kreutzer sonatas.
The first thing that I noticed was the attractive presentation. Full of interesting information the booklet includes fascinating reproductions of a 1940 recital programme of Furtwängler’s D major Sonata with descriptions in German.
It may come as a surprise to some readers that in addition to the demands of a heavy conducting schedule Furtwängler found time to compose. Furtwängler was fifty-two when he completed his Violin Sonata No.2 in 1939. Cast in three movements it is a long work lasting over forty minutes. At times it reminded me of the chamber music of Reger and Hindemith. I found the sound quality excellent being especially clear and well balanced.
Marked Allegro moderato the opening movement has a sunny disposition with a tinge of mystery. Soon developing into a fierce storm the forceful music surges over the listener like a torrent. Much of Moser’s violin part is for its highest register. Thankfully Huhn’s piano is never allowed to dominate. An uneasy calm pervades the Lento. Although the piano textures are heavy the lyricism is predominantly passionate. There are passages of greater weight and angst but this soon diminishes. A curious short passage for pizzicato at 8:53-9:08 is impassive and characterless. Moser and Huhn drive the pace of the Finale: Presto like a gale-force wind. Here Furtwängler’s writing encompasses dramatic emotional contrasts with extremely wide dynamics. Short passages of relative calm provide only a brief respite from the near frenetic writing. Rather abruptly the score ends with a sudden outburst of energy.
Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 8,sometimes known as the ‘little G major’,is the last in a set of three sonatas. Published as op. 30 in Vienna in 1803 the set bears a dedication to the monarch Tsar Alexander I of Russia. With regard to the sound quality I found Huhn’s piano placed too far forward in the balance which creates an unappealing bright metallic resonance when played with force. 

The playing here is assured with plenty of zest in the uplifting and joyous opening Allegro assai. Contrasting starkly with the outer movements the central movement is more relaxed and features light Viennese rhythms. A temperament of childlike simplicity makes few demands on the listener. Briskly taken by Moser and Huhn the lyrical Finale: Allegro vivace just bounces along with playing that feels fresh and buoyant. 

The Beethoven and Furtwängler violin sonatas are an uncommon paring on disc. Furtwängler’s D major score is well worth hearing and makes this a fascinating release.
Michael Cookson



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