Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Sonata in F for violin and piano, op.8 (1865) [19:20]
Sonata in G for violin and piano, op.13 (1867) [20:26]
Sonata in C minor for violin and piano, op.45 (1887) [22:01]
Natalia Lomeiko (violin); Olga Sitkovetsky (piano)
rec. Genova, Italy, 26-28 February 2001. DDD
DYNAMIC DM 8016 [61:53]
This CD was originally released by Italian label Dynamic in 2001 with the catalogue number CDS278. It is now being reissued as volume 16 of their apparently random 'Delizie Musicali' ('Musical Delights') series. Volume 12 was recently reviewed here.
Grieg's violin sonatas have been recorded a fair number of times, particularly the one in C minor. Discs of all three sonatas are naturally rarer, but sets by Naxos, Brilliant Classics and most recently Hyperion were reviewed here, here and here. Russian violinist Natalia Lomeiko's two previous recordings have both been with compatriot Olga Sitkovetsky, most notably "French Violin Sonatas" on Trust (TRI 3003, in 2004), and another from around the same time, a difficult-to-come-by live CD entitled "Il Cannone" on Italian label Fonè.
By some quirk of fate, Grieg's chamber works are much less known than his orchestral music or piano pieces, although he did write relatively little in the genre, giving only five chamber works an opus number: the String Quartet in G minor, the Cello Sonata in A minor, and these three violin sonatas.
The First Sonata op.8 was composed in the summer of 1865 while the young Grieg was on holiday, and this state of affairs is reflected in the music: this is a supremely self-confident, magnetic work bathing in youth's radiant sunshine, with superb duo writing. It is performed with infectious relish by Lomeiko, whose tone is positively Mediterranean.
Written just two years later, the Second Sonata op.13 begins on a dramatic, quasi-tragic note, but it is not long before the warmth of the First Sonata returns, albeit more nuanced. In any case, the fertility of Grieg's melodic and harmonic inventiveness, to say nothing of his rhythmic suppleness, is even more in evidence. The folklike rhythms and melodies of the final movement in particular make it easy to see why Grieg's mentor Niels Gade famously, but fatuously, described the Sonata as "too Norwegian"!
Pundits who have made a habit of criticising Grieg's capacity for writing chamber music are focusing on purely academic elements; what matters above all, surely, is that Grieg's violin sonatas are magnificently endowed with what general audiences most desire - imagination, melody, emotional depth and intelligence. These are characteristic of the first two Sonatas, but even more so of the most popular and highly original Third, written twenty years further on, by an older and wiser, but still fundamentally contented Grieg - by this time he and his wife had settled into their permanent Troldhaugen residence and routine. Lomeiko, who was recently appointed Professor of Violin at the London Royal College of Music, gives the passionate first movement all the artistic welly it needs, while Sitkovetsky skilfully negotiates the tricky piano part. The wistful, lyrical middle movement is both inspired and inspiring, and the melody and invention just keeps on coming for the uplifting finale. Confident, expressive, poetic, optimistic: it is hard to imagine a performance that Grieg himself would have liked more than this one.
More prosaically, Dynamic's booklets are usually less than perfect, beginning with the final 'i' of 'Delizie Musicali', which has been guillotined off. There is a stylish photo of Lomeiko and Sitkovetsky - originally on the cover, but now replaced by a purple and white something or other. Where though are the biographical notes?
Thankfully, however, the liner-notes have been translated into English by a native speaker, and are reasonably informative. Sound quality is high. The only technical fault as such is the shortage of breathing space at the ends of tracks, so that one movement often follows another more quickly than it would in recital. The disc is a bit short - some of the space might have been filled with Ved Mannjevningen, a march Grieg wrote in 1867 for violin and piano, and which he later reworked for inclusion in his Sigurd Jorsalfar music.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
Confident, expressive, poetic, optimistic: it is hard to imagine a performance that Grieg himself would have liked more than this one.