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Franz SCHUBERT (1797–1828)
Violin Sonata in D major ‘Sonatina’ D384 (1816) 13:38
Violin Sonata in A minor ‘Sonatina’ D385 (1816) 24.21
Violin Sonata in G minor ‘Sonatina’ D408 (1816) 17:12
Rondo for violin and strings in A major D438 (1816) 14:42
Sara Trickey (violin); Daniel Tong (piano); Callino Quartet
rec. Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, 23-24, 28 May 2013
CHAMPS HILL RECORDS CHRCD080 [69:55]

The music on this CD makes for seventy minutes of sheer delight.
 
Sara Trickey demonstrates a solid technique, consummate artistry, a wonderful sense of poetry, intelligent grasp of style and fine musicianship. As she rightly points out in her foreword to this unusual selection of Schubert’s music, the ingredients of the composer’s voice are present in each of the three sonatas. It was Diabelli who rechristened them ‘Sonatinas’ in 1836, eight years after Schubert’s death. What is more, they were entitled ‘Sonatas for piano with violin accompaniment’ by Schubert when he produced all three in a flourish in the Spring of 1816. This reversal of the description one would normally expect to read and hear — and I urge the reader to read Schubert’s description again, so unusual is it — is reflected in the partnership on the disc; there are moments when the violin is very much in the background.
 
Daniel Tong’s playing is both refined and sensitive, while both artists succeed in bringing out the dark side of Schubert’s music, those moments of Sturm und Drang and those wonderful chromatic passages which he uses to undertake a journey of modulation to remote and distant keys. Elsewhere the music has both charm and wit. Ländler tunes abound and Menuetts are fast — apposite word — becoming Scherzos. Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven are unsurprisingly omnipresent while glimpses of Mendelssohn and Schumann point the way ahead.
 
Schubert was a fine string player (both violin and viola) and if the Sonatinas may sound ‘easy’, it takes more than technical mastery to bring them off. Subtlety is the name of the game. The Rondo — perhaps a test bed for the heavenly length yet to come when Schumann described the ninth symphony and all its repeats — does rather overstate its case, though the basic material is absolutely charming. The idea to do it with a string quartet — Schubert’s original intention — is a very good one. To do it with a full string orchestra not only inflates it to concerto status but also loses the translucent detail each one of the four members of the fine Callino Quartet brings to the dialogue-accompaniment. Also written in 1816, the Rondo lay unpublished for eighty years before it appeared in 1897. This was a common fate for Schubert’s music after his premature death at 31 in 1828. It took forty years for the Unfinished Symphony to have a first public hearing.
 
Today we hear a great deal of his music, in particular songs, symphonies and chamber music but these sonatas deserve more of an outing than purely as a starter for a recital or a filler for a disc. This disc more than proves my point.

Christopher Fifield