This disc wears a ‘minor masters’ look, a fact happily attested to in the
sleeve-notes. The focus is on the music of two contemporaries – Florent
Schmitt and Jan Ingenhoven, the former very much better known than the
latter – and the somewhat younger László Lajtha. Stylistically speaking one
senses the move from Late-Romanticism in their music toward a more varied
palette, and to more plural directions.
Schmitt’s 1918-19 Violin Sonata has always kept a single toe in the
repertoire – Jean Fournier recorded it decades ago, but more recently Régis
Pasquier did so for Auvidis Valois on V4679. Freely rhapsodic but
compellingly, indeed – for the piano – often ceaselessly active the opening
of the two movements is a slow one marked ‘without exaggeration’. Some
fluttery avian writing for the violin is matched by some responsive and
full-bore piano statements. This movement is explicitly contrasted against
the ensuing one which is significantly longer and more volatile, not least
in its terpsichorean address. The rolling and driving resinous playing
becomes increasingly factious though along with the biting drama comes
lyrical reminiscence too. The nostalgia, though soon swept away by
increasingly terse motifs, remains pervasive here. For all the superficially
loose harmonic direction, the music is strongly constructed and frequently
compelling. Certainly it receives a strong and assured performance here.
Schmitt’s Dutch contemporary Ingenhoven is represented by two very
different and very compact violin sonatas at a diametric remove,
stylistically, from Schmitt’s hothouse. The Violin Sonata – not numbered as
No.1, but completed in 1920, the year before Sonata No.2 - is in one
movement but with four fairly clear sections. It’s refined, elegant, and
compressed writing with a fresh lyric slow section. The slightly later
sonata is equally short, at just over nine-minutes, is full of fancy and
some flighty decorative writing for the violin. Whilst never fully
distinctive, it’s also never dull.
A generation younger than Schmitt, the Hungarian László Lajtha completed
his Sonate en concert
in 1962, the year before his death. It’s an
intriguing work, with a folkloric hint, but hints too of Poulenc. There’s
plenty of drollery in the writing, which is also on occasion taut and tart.
The slow movement reveals its ethnic slant in particular, with the fiddle
taken high and the piano exuding cimbalom sonority. The writing is warm, the
song well sung. To top things off, there’s a purposeful and exciting finale.
Here’s a sonata that should really be better known.
The programming juxtapositions work well here, and the well-recorded
performances from Ilona Then-Bergh and Michael Schäfer are thoroughly