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Sonata no.1 in D minor, for violin and piano, op.75 (1885) [24:14]
Sonata in E flat, for violin and piano, op.18 (1888) [29:65] Bruno Monteiro (violin)
João Paulo Santos (piano)
rec. Carthusian Church, Caxias, Lisbon, Portugal, 14-15 June 2007.
CNM (PORTUGAL) 451CD [54:00]
Two unalike but beautiful Violin Sonatas are united on this
new release by the Portuguese multi-genre label CNM. This is
almost for the first time: veteran American violinist Aaron
Rosand's recording with Seymour Lipkin on Audiofon (72026) back
in 1990 may well be the only other. That disc also included
Grieg's C minor Sonata. For a while Rosand's recording probably
enjoyed a sizeable presence in the market as it was then. Nowadays
there are so many more recordings available of these two works
that this recital by Portuguese natives Bruno Monteiro and João
Paulo Santos may struggle to find a foothold. By pure bad luck
it must compete against the new Chandos recording of the Strauss
(with works by Respighi) by Tasmin Little and Piers Lane (CHAN
10749).It also vies with Maria Bachmann and Adam Neiman's Saint-Saëns
(with Debussy and Franck) just released on Bridge (9394) - itself
coming within a few months of Joshua Bell and Jeremy Denk's
widely acclaimed recording of the Saint-Saëns with Ravel
In other words, Monteiro, Paulo Santos and CNM certainly like
a challenge! Their cause is not helped, it must be said, by
the relatively ungenerous timing of the disc or the rather inconspicuous
CD design. Nonetheless, all is not lost: after all, the music
is the thing. There is no question about the quality and broad
appeal of these two Sonatas, and the performances themselves
are very persuasive. Monteiro is one of Portugal's top violinists,
and he and Paulo Santos have performed and recorded together
many times, developing a good rapport that approaches telepathy.
Monteiro consistently strikes an almost ideal balance between
the expressive and the intellectual, especially in Saint-Saëns'
masterpiece. His tone is warm but never saccharine against the
cool neutrals of Paulo Santos's pianism. As a team they offer,
for anyone who has forgotten quite how brilliant the D minor
Sonata is, an insistent reminder. The two of them have already
demonstrated an affinity for French music in their recording
for Centaur of Chausson's Poème and his Concerto
in D, the latter performed with the Lopes-Graça Quartet
(CRC 3120). On the other hand, their Schumann disc released
last year, also on Centaur, showed that they also have the emotional
wherewithal to tackle the Germanic repertoire (see review).
So it proves in Strauss's Sonata, all but his last word in chamber
music, and a deceptively demanding work - technically and psychologically.
It gives Monteiro and Paulo Santos a chance to dazzle.
Sound quality is good, the church ambience spacious and pleasantly
humid. The booklet is a low-key affair, unlikely to win any
awards for concept, and without pages as such - English-only
notes by Monteiro are printed on the inside front and back cover.
One of Strauss's three other pieces for violin and piano, the
pre-adolescent Two Little Pieces in G, the so-called 'Daphne'
Study or the parting Allegretto in E, and/or one of Saint-Saëns'
other short works - an Elégie, perhaps, or the Caprice
Brillant? - would have beefed up the recital nicely.
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