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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Violin Sonata in D major, Op. post.137 No.1, D384 (1816) [12:14]
Violin Sonata in A minor Op. post.137 No.2, D385 (1816) [22:17]
Violin Sonata in G minor, Op. post.137 No.3, D408 (1816) [16:51]
Violin Sonata, ‘Duo’, Op. post.162, D574 (1817) [22:46]
Rondeau brilliant in B minor, Op.70, D895 (1826) [14:14]
Fantasie in C major,, D934 (1827) [26:43]
Arpeggione Sonata in A minor, D821 (1824) [23:12]
Adagio in E flat major, Op. post.148, D897 (1827-28) [9:37]
Tasmin Little (violin)
Piers Lane (piano)
Tim Hugh (cello)
rec. 2014, Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk
CHANDOS CHAN10850(2) [74:36 + 74:13]

Tasmin Little and Piers Lane tackle Schubert’s violin works with suave elegance. Lane’s passagework sparkles and gleams, often propelled by a forthright sense of the music’s equality between the two instruments. Little’s vibrato is varied cannily depending on the dictates of the more flighty elements of the music or its more communing slow movements. Ensemble, as one should expect of this partnership, is solid. I can point to any number of felicitous moments and phrases that reveal some hard preparation for the recording sessions. Subsidiary violin themes are rightly played thus, and don’t draw attention to themselves. There’s real tonal warmth in Little’s playing of the slow movement of D384. The A minor (D385) is played with amplitude and romanticist warmth, the nervous piano chording and terse violin passages together generating a kind of mini Sturm und Drang. In the opening Allegro moderato of this sonata (or sonatina) Little at one point bleaches her vibrato. Quite some expressive ground is covered. The hymnal elements of this work’s slow movement are also judiciously respected but not breached. I like Little’s changes of colour and bow weight in the minuet of D408. Indeed I like a great deal here.

There is, however, a nagging feeling that certain passages sound less than spontaneous – that the illusion of spontaneity, at any rate, is not conspicuously audible. There’s something a little too artful about D384’s opening and a lack of lightness in its finale. The alternation of passagework and lyric themes in the opening movement of D408 is, to me, manicured a little too obviously. Sometimes the phrasing sounds too prepared, the piano articulating as much as possible but along the way somewhat losing the freshness of the music’s inspiration. There are some awkward-sounding elements in the Allegro moderato finale of D408, which is taken at a very deliberate tempo, and some deft though possibly over-nuanced moments in D574.

Given the virtues and possible limitations of the approach taken, it’s possible to be in two minds simultaneously when listening. There’s admiration for the clarity of the performance as well as some frustration at sluggish elements, as if a degree of rhythmic retardation is being applied (D408) or the music’s more colloquial side is being inflated. There are no complaints about the confident boldness of the Rondeau brilliant. When it comes to the stiff challenge of the Fantasie, the greatest piece here and still a problem for musicians to gauge successfully, Lane once again takes care to probe to the score’s core, as he had in the sonatas, ensuring maximal digital clarity. Little responds with a quotient of slightly rougher tone than had been the case in the earlier, smaller works, but she plays with fully-committed intensity. The intention here is, it seems to me, to fuse clarity with buoyancy, and intensity of articulation. The final two pieces sees Tim Hugh joining Lane for the Arpeggione Sonata, full of elegance and warmth and a touch of reserve in the central Adagio. The Adagio, D897 features the luxury casting of all three players.

The two discs offer an interesting slant on these works and Potton Hall proves an estimable recording location once again.

Jonathan Woolf



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