Hans HUBER (1852-1921) Works for Violin and Piano
Sonata no.2 in B flat minor, op.42 (1878/1898) [32:01]
Sonata Graziosa (Sonata no.7) in G, op.119 (c.1902) [25:05]
Poetic Pieces, op.99, nos. 1, 4, 6, 8, 10, 17-20 (1892-97) [11:09]
Agnieszka Marucha (violin)
Tomasz Pawlowski (piano)
rec. Fryderyk Chopin University of Music, Warsaw, February 2010 (op.119); February 2011.
Though not quite the "practically unknown Swiss composer" claimed by violinist Agnieszka Marucha in her foreword, Hans Huber will be known to a few primarily for his First Symphony, the Tellsinfonie, named after the legendary character of Swiss folklore (review). There is little doubt in any case that he is one of Switzerland's most significant composers of the 19th or indeed any century.
Huber's symphonies are available in fact on the Swedish Sterling label, where the Stuttgart Philharmonic is conducted by Jörg-Peter Weigle, re-released in 2003 as a now difficult-to-obtain boxed set (CDS 5000-2). The components of this set have been reviewed here (review; review) as has a CD of the Huber piano concertos (review). The violin sonatas, of which New Grove lists nine, are less well covered, Guild's pairing of the Fifth and Sixth possibly the only recording to date (GMCD7371, review). As such, this release by the Polish independent Acte Préalable, billed indeed as world premiere recordings, is both welcome and significant.
Given the dates of these works, and Huber's heroes and models - Schumann and his 'children' - it is no surprise that the three heard here lie somewhere between Brahms and early Strauss. The Sonata Graziosa earns it name with its A Lark Ascending-style solo violin ending (and beginning, for that matter), although in fact this mature masterpiece is wistfully beautiful all the way through. The more traditional-sounding Second Sonata is no less magnificent, a non-stop feast of lilting Austrian cadences, the harmonic drama and the ambiguous passion of Huber's German exemplars. Neither work lacks a sense of humour or grace either, and the listener comes away feeling a little bit better about the world.
Unfortunately only nine of Huber's lovely miniatures, the Twenty Poetic Pieces, have been included in this programme. In all fairness, the complete set would not have fitted onto a single disc alongside the two sonatas. On the other hand, there are surely other works that might have been offered in their place - even a third sonata?
Agnieszka Marucha, with three previous recordings for Acte Préalable to her credit including, significantly, Huber's double violin sonata op.135 (AP0159), is a fine young violinist, possessing an intimate, attractive tone and a temperament well suited to Huber's music. Though she is undoubtedly photogenic, the four full-page colour photos of her in the booklet, plus one on the back inlay and another on the disc itself, seem a mite excessive - especially when she and Tomasz Pawlowski look rather dour on all of them! Pawlowski's own expertise plays a significant role in her successful account of Huber, whose piano music is no mere accompaniment - especially in Sonata no.2, where there is even a solo cantilena.
Sound quality is very good. The booklet notes by Marucha are interesting and well written, revealing a mental maturity that matches her musicianship. Besides the Polish originals there are English and German translations. A quality disc in every regard.
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The three sonatas heard here lie somewhere between Brahms and early Strauss.

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