Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Sonata No.2 for Violin and Piano, Op.121 (1851) [30:09]
Märchenbilder for Viola and Piano, Op.113 (1851) [14:24]
Clara SCHUMANN (1819-1896)
Three Romances for Violin and Piano, Op.22 (1853) [10:06]
Nurit Stark (violin and viola)
Cédric Pescia (piano)
rec. 2014, Siemens-Villa, Berlin
CLAVES 50-1502 [55:51]
Schumann’s second sonata for violin and piano was written a few weeks
after the first. The composer declared: ‘I didn’t like the first violin
sonata, so I wrote a second, which I hope turned out better’. Clara
certainly liked it, finding it ‘wonderfully original, with a depth and
magnificence that I have hardly ever known before’. Also set in a minor key,
this later work is very different in character to its predecessor, Schumann
shedding brooding melancholy for a more upbeat, exuberant and energetic
focus. It was completed between October and November 1851, but not published
until September 1853. Its dedicatee was Ferdinand David of Mendelssohn
Violin Concerto fame but it was given its first public performance in
Düsseldorf by Clara Schumann and the Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim. I
don’t subscribe to the opinion of some that these sonatas display the
symptoms of a composer lacking inspiration in the final years of his mental
decline. For me, they are brilliantly constructed, offering a wealth of
inspiration, innovation, ingenuity and compositional flair. I’ve always had
a preference for this sonata, cast on a grander scale than the first, and
the recording I’ve always turned to has been the Christian Ferras/Pierre
Barbizet on DG 437 949.
Stark and Pescia certainly give the older recording a run for its money.
These players capture all the drama of the opening movement, from the very
first declamatory chords, which assert themselves with striking potency.
Aside from all the drama, the lyrical sections have a burning intensity. A
scherzo-like movement follows, which sounds as though it comes from the pen
of Brahms. It is delivered in a joyous and extrovert manner. Stark’s
pizzicatos ring out warmly in the third movement, a set of variations in G
major on a theme reminiscent of a Bach chorale I cry to thee in deepest
. There’s plenty of drama and excitement in the finale, setting the
seal on a captivating performance that would be hard to beat.
As a contrast to the more weighty narrative of the Sonata, Clara
Schumann’s Three Romances offer an element of composure, and an opportunity
to cleanse the palate. They were written in 1853, at the end of her
compositional life, and dedicated to Joachim. Stark and Pescia clearly have
great affection for these short pieces and invest them with charm, delicacy
The four character pieces that comprise the Märchenbilder or Fairy Tale
Pictures, like the Second Violin Sonata, were also composed in 1851. They
were dedicated to the German violinist and conductor Wilhelm Joseph von
Wasielewski. Schumann was Director of Music in Düsseldorf at the time. Nurit
Stark turns her hand to the viola this time, from which she draws a rich,
full-bodied tone. The two outer movements are eloquent and expressive,
framing two inner movements of a more energetic and vigorous character,
realized with formidable virtuosity. What draws me to this performances is
the sheer range of imagination, variety and artistic expression these
artists bring to the four brief pieces.
The Siemens-Villa, Berlin offers a warm, resonant acoustic and both
instruments are balanced effectively in the mix. Excellent annotations are
provided by Claves in French, German and English. One cannot fail to be won
over by the spontaneity and enthusiasm of these two artists and, for anyone
purchasing these recordings, the rewards are immense.
You can get a taster from Youtube.