Arthur HONEGGER (1892-1955)

Complete Violin Sonatas
Violin Sonata in D minor, H.3 (1912) [24:35]
Violin Sonata No.1, H.17 (1916-18) [21:31]
Violin Sonata No.2, H.24 (1919) [11:56]
Sonata for solo violin in D minor, H.143 (1940) [14:59]
Laurence Kayaleh (violin)
Paul Stewart (piano)
rec. December 2008, Pollack Hall, Schulich School of Music, McGill University, Montreal
NAXOS 8.572192 [73:02]

Itís very unusual to find all Honeggerís Violin Sonatas ó which includes the solo sonata of 1940 ó grouped together in one disc. In fact Iím not aware of another such coupling in the current catalogue, which gives this budget price entrant cachet. Even better, the performances are persuasive and finely played and recorded.

This would amount to a recommendation even were the music not so attractive, which is not to say itís transparent, as there are moments of occlusion and introspection along the way. The First Sonata is actually the unnumbered D minor of 1912. I agree wholly with Anyssa Neumannís booklet notes that the opening embeds genuine Ďpathosíóitís the pathos of popular song, in my view, to which Laurence Kayaleh responds with pervasive and elegant portamenti and effusive lyric intensity. Thereís a degree of agitato in this work and Brahmsian striving, and itís understandable that it was not published during Honeggerís lifetime in a sense, given the influences. But itís still a big, confident utterance from the young composer. The slow movement is engagingly done, with its odd Delian moments, and the March section is well characterised. The confident and puckish finale is interrupted by a moment of baroque reportage, before a nobly conceived maestoso sweeps us to the finish. As she does throughout, Kayaleh plays with a refined tonal palette. She doesnít make a big sound, but it is finely coloured.

The first numbered sonata was written during the last two years of the First World War. Itís a more focused work, less effusive, and sites the fast movement centrally between two essentially slow ones. The central panel of the Presto is played with the mute, and the whole thing is freely ruminative, though I detect Franck still in his musical handwriting. Stark intoning begins the finale, and here Kayaleh powerfully intensifies her vibrato width. Itís hard not to read into this movement something of the same spirit, but not the same means, that informs John Irelandís contemporaneous Second Violin Sonata.

By contrast the 1919 Second Sonata has rather dreamlike qualities. It takes in a fugal moment, whilst remaining strongly chromatic, indeed compact in its reach ó itís 12 minutes in length in this performance. The finaleís ebullience removes the rather heavy atmosphere brilliantly, fully conveyed by Kayaleh and Paul Stewart. The solo sonata is becoming ever more popular and this performance will not harm that status in any way. What I like especially is the generosity of her grazioso phrasing in the Allegretto; delightfully done.

So if you lack these sonatas, or are curious about Honeggerís approach to them, this disc will stand as a fine guide with performances as subtle as they are perceptive.

Jonathan Woolf

A fine guide with performances as subtle as they are perceptive.