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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Paul Makanowitzky (violin)
Ludwig Van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Violin Sonata No. 7 in C Minor, Op. 30/2 (1803) [26:14]
Violin Sonata No. 10 in G Major, Op. 96 (1812) [24:36]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Violin Sonata No.1 in A minor, Op.105 (1851) [13:28]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Duo Concertant (1931-32) [14:56]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Sonata No.1 in G major, Op.78 (1878-79) [19:23]
Arnold SCHOENBERG (1874-1951)
Phantasy for violin and piano, Op.47 (1949) [6:58]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Six Variations ‘Helas, j’ai perdu mon amant’ K374b/K360 [4:42]
The Firebird; tableau 1; VIII. Jeu des princesses avec les pommes d'or [1:57]
Jean-Joseph Cassanťa de MONDONVILLE (1711-1772)
Violin Sonata in C major [7:09]
NoŽl Lee, Jerzy Vitas (piano)
rec. June 1961, Ettlingen, Schloss, South German Radio, except March 1963, Bruchsal, Schloss, South German Radio (Brahms, Schoenberg) and late 1940s, Voice of America recording (Mozart, Stravinsky, Mondonville)
MELOCLASSIC MC2025 [64:19 + 61:21]

Paul Makanowitzky is certainly not an unknown quantity in this series, as he made a number of recordings and had a strong reputation as a tough pedagogue, but he’s certainly not the best-known player. Makanowitzky (1920-98) was born in Stockholm but brought up in Paris by his Russian-born parents, where he was taught by Ivan Galamian. His Russian background, Galamian’s teaching and the Parisian milieu, then dominated by Jacques Thibaud, clearly left their mark. Galamian, much impressed, later brought him to the Juilliard as his first assistant. He served bravely in WW2 – he was a gunner in B-24s over Europe, where he was shot down in 1944 and held in a POW camp. He resumed performance after the war but by 1967, still only 47 he gave up on the round of concert-giving and devoted himself to teaching. In 1983 he retired.

It’s a strange trajectory but he was certainly not the only musician whose life was interrupted by the war. Perhaps there was a lack of inner compulsion as a soloist or perhaps he was heard at his best as a chamber musician. He was fortunate that he formed a decade-long ensemble with NoŽl Lee so that between 1954 and 1964 they gave many recitals and examples exist of their involved music-making.

This twofer is largely given over to a June 1971 recital from Ettlingen, and then augmented by part of a recital two years later before dipping into the archival waters of a Voice of America recording from the late 1940s. The major recital presents a programme of Beethoven, Schumann and Stravinsky. The two Beethoven sonatas establish Makanowitzky’s musical imperatives. The feeling of nervous intensity is conveyed through a fast vibrato and there is a muscular strength to his sound. Much interest is generated through his right arm, and bowing – in particular – was a somewhat controversial area of his playing. It’s utilised sometimes in a free-spirited way and some passages in the scherzo of the C minor are decidedly chancy but it was clearly highly effective for him. In the Op.96 sonata there is something almost febrile about his tone production and one can really hear the sometimes-controversial bowing in the sonata’s slow movement where the music’s drama and emotive quotient is conveyed through constant variation and fluctuations of bowing. His Schumann is echt-Romantic and he dives into its stormy elements with alacrity. He respects the Allegretto marking of the central movement with some flair, but he doesn’t prove an overly witty player. There remains something strong-willed, even indomitable about some of his phrasing. Something, in a word, resolute. Stravinsky’s Duo Concertant suits his crisp, taut, fast driving playing. He vests the Dithyrambe in particular with a considerable amount of nervous lyricism.

The 1963 recital in Bruchsal is represented by Brahms’ G major sonata and Schoenberg’s Phantasy. Lee proves a truly resilient partner here, and elsewhere throughout the various pieces. Makanowitzky digs into the string in the Russian manner in the Brahms, producing his familiar big sound, often augmented by quite heavy bow weight. If he seems a bit thin in the upper voices in the slow movement he certainly ends the sonata gracefully. The challenges of the Schoenberg are met head-on, stylistically apt, and appropriately bristling, its asperity being easily within his compass. The final three items come from the Voice of America recordings, and are in rough but listenable sound. He was still only 22 when they were recorded. The most extended of the three is Mondonville’s lovely sonata – it should be far better known – which is played with youthful, romantic amplitude and some charm.

The two men recorded a complete set of the Beethoven sonatas and the three Brahms sonatas for Lumen. Everything else is new to the violinist’s discography. With fine presentation these authoritative, powerful readings bring the Makanwitzky-Lee duo back for informed listening.

Jonathan Woolf



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