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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Violin Sonata no.1 in A minor, op.105 (1851) [17:21]
Violin Sonata no.2 in D minor, op.121 (1851) [31:22]
Clara SCHUMANN (1819-1896)
Drei Romanzen, for violin and piano, op.22 (1855) [9:51]
Bruno Monteiro (violin)
Joăo Paulo Santos (piano)
rec. Great Hall, Escola Superior de Música, Lisbon, Portugal, 1-2
March 2010. DDD
CENTAUR CRC 3086 [58:35]
Robert Schumann's three Violin Sonatas belong to the
last five years of his life, a significant portion of the extended
period when some music historians have it that he was tormented
by deep depression and thoughts of suicide - so much so that
some even claim an attendant deterioration in the quality of
his writing. In the notes that accompany this CD, pianist Francisco
Sassetti does not go as far as that, but does say that Schumann's
choice of A minor for the First Violin Sonata and several later
works "is symptomatic of the composer's state of
mind, tense and introspective".
Yet what composer is not introspective? Who does not experience
tense times? Clearly Schumann's mental health was in
serious decline in the final year or two of his life, but in
the two Sonatas of this attractive recital by Portuguese violinist
Bruno Monteiro and his stalwart pianist Joăo Paulo Santos there
is little sign of anything but vitality and an imagination looks
unequivocally to the future. Minor key tonalities do not always
mean doom and gloom, and there is barely an unilluminated corner
in either of Schumann's Sonatas. All claims to the contrary
must be treated as possible cases of cod-psychology applied
after the fact.
Schumann's wife Clara was a better composer than history
has tended to give her credit for. What a pity that she decided
to put an end to her composition career after Robert's
death. Her Three Romances, op.22 - not to be confused with her
Three Romances op.21, which were for piano only! - are important
in that they constitute her only surviving work for violin and
piano. Broadly stated, the pieces soar and sear like mini-tributes
to Robert's First Sonata, both works overflowing with
lyricism and personality.
Robert's writing for the violin is not exactly idiomatic,
yet far from producing awkward music, a highly engaging soundscape
is hewn that is rarely found in violin sonatas of the period.
Anyone familiar with Schumann primarily through the Piano Concerto,
a Symphony or the piano miniatures cannot fail to enjoy - and
may indeed be rather thrilled by - these idiosyncratically vivid,
dramatic and always poetic works.
There are many recordings available already of the two, frequently
paired: choice picks among single-CD recordings include Marwood
and Tomes on Hyperion (CDA 67180), Gringolts and Laul on Onyx
(4053), Wallin and Pöntinen on BIS (SACD 1784), Widmann and
Várjon on ECM New Series (4766744), Kaler and Slutsky on Naxos
(8.550870). Yet this one on the American independent Centaur
has plenty going for it too, not least the coupling with Clara's
Romances, which is seldom encountered. Moreover, along with
Carlos Damas, Bruno Monteiro is one of Portugal's leading
violinists. His approach to Schumann's music may be characterised
as approachably intellectual, with good attention to tempi and
phrasing and very little vibrato. He is never drily academic,
expressing emotional aspects effectively through an appealing
smattering of rubato. Monteiro's violin has a tone that
will not be to all tastes, however, being a little more on the
fluorescent side than glowing.
Sound quality is good overall, if very bright, and Monteiro
is rather closely miked. The notes by Sassetti are standard
fare, written in not altogether elegantly rendered English.
Surprisingly there is no Portuguese or German translation. An
amusing typo in the German changes Schumann's "mit
zartem Vortrag(e)" (literally 'with delicate expression')
into "mit zartem Vortag", 'Vortag' being
the German for 'previous day' or 'eve'.
The CD is a bit on the short side: Schumann's Märchenbilder
op.113 or Fantasiestücke op.73 would have filled up the disc
and rounded off the programme nicely.
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