Hans PFITZNER (1869-1949)
Violin Sonata, Op.27 (1918) [27:02]
Frederick Septimus KELLY (1881-1916)
Violin Sonata ‘Gallipoli’ (1915) [22:57]
Georges ANTOINE (1892-1918)
Violin Sonata, Op.3 (1912-15) [21:25]
Lili BOULANGER (1893-1918)
Nocturne (1911) [3:18]
Guillaume Sutre (violin)
Steven Vanhauwaert (piano)
rec. Schoenberg Hall, University of California, LA
HORTUS 712 [73:58]
This splendidly investigative series, focusing on music written during the First World War, has now reached volume 12 and turns to three sonatas, one of which technically predates the war but was revised during it. Pfitzner’s Violin Sonata doesn’t get out and about too often. It was composed in 1918, in the wake of the highly successful premiere of Palestrina in Munich the previous year. A bold, late-Romantic work cast in three movements, it needs sympathetic control of its nostalgia and turbulence if it’s to make a maximal impression. The contours are finely projected here, its elastic melody lines and aspirational harmonies strongly to the fore. The agitated nature of the writing is also well conveyed and pianist Steven Vanhauwaert makes the most of Pfitzner’s rather beautiful piano statements at the start of the slow movement. There is plenty of rhythmic vivacity if not really truly memorable melodic writing in the finale. Guillaume Sutre shoulders many of these burdens admirably but there is sometimes tonal thinness and the occasional imprecision to contend with.
By one of those strange quirks this duo recorded F.S Kelly’s Violin Sonata about three months before Rupert Marshall-Luck and Matthew Rickard recorded it for EM Records (EMRCD030
concert review). I’m not sure which disc was issued first and can thus claim première status for this work. In any case it’s good to have two competing versions. I should note that I’ve not heard the EM Records version but can add that it lasts 29:33 to this recording’s 22:57, quite an eye-opening difference in a work that has no performance history to speak of. Composed in 1915 it inhabits a rather prelapsarian pre-war world, sweetly lyric and far removed from the terse violence and anguished lyricism of John Ireland’s Second Sonata of two years later. The fanciful airy nature of the central Adagio enshrines a small degree of pastoral folklore and associated avian fluttering and rather negates the idea that this is somehow redolent of dedicatee Jelly d’Aranyi’s Magyar roots. This is certainly not the Ravel Tzigane. The finale is the most novel movement, calling on a Ground, a pretty piece of baroque straight from those sun-spotted violin albums of Old School arrangements. The pomposo elements of this are well played.
Short-lived Georges Antoine wrote his Sonata in 1912. Premiered in 1914 it was revised the following year. The long shadow of César Franck extends over some of this work though the idiom is not too far from that of Delius, not least in its wistful and reflective writing. The oscillation between cyclic and rhapsodic is intriguing, especially when serio-comic elements are introduced. For a 20-year-old, this skittishly amusing quality is very welcome, especially as Antoine doesn’t neglect the more sombre elements of the post-Franckian sonata. This is an interesting find. It’s a much better work than the Kelly and from the sound of it Antoine’s death from pneumonia at 26 cut short a promising talent. Lili Boulanger’s well-known 1911 Nocturne brings things to a quiet close.
The photograph on the front, by the way, is of Samuel Kutcher, British soloist and quartet leader, and was taken by his friend and fellow musician Frederick Thurston during the War. It’s an apt choice. The recording quality is pretty good, though in the Pfitzner the balance between instruments can slightly favour the piano.