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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Sonata No.2 in A Op,12 No.2 (1797-98) [16:17]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op.108 (1886-88) [20:40]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Sonata for piano and violin in C major, K296 (1778) [13:09]
Cťsar FRANCK (1822-1890)
Violin Sonata in A Major (1886) [26:12]
Paul Makanowitzky (violin)
NoŽl Lee (piano)
rec. May 1961 (Beethoven, Brahms) and February 1963 (Mozart, Franck), Studio NDR, Hamburg
MELOCLASSIC MC2032 [76:19]

Meloclassic revisits the broadcast legacy of violinist Paul Makanowitzky and his decade-long accompanist and colleague, NoŽl Lee, in a follow-up to their twofer on MC2025 (review). Sufficient biographical material in that earlier review will alert one to the formidable strengths of the duo, and in the latest release, devoted to Hamburg broadcasts made in 1961 and 1963, it’s the central repertoire that is examined.

The duo recorded complete sets of the Beethoven and Brahms sonatas, so the material here is in a sense ancillary. However, broadcasts almost always generate a greater sense of commitment from artists than the more hide-bound recording studio environment, and are therefore valuable adjuncts in artists’ discographies. The Beethoven sonata is well argued, with witty, albeit slightly heavily bowed, drama. Lee’s plangent playing in the slow movement is a particular highlight. In the Mozart sonata the violinist’s vibrato can be a touch overpowering though its strength can’t be denied. The lullaby-like aria of the slow movement is weighted with delicacy and refinement by Lee and both men relish the rhythmic vivacity of the finale.

Makanowitzky’s tonal warmth is always audible, not least in the lower strings, but the febrile intensity of his sound and his fast vibrato can also be problematic, a consideration in the Brahms. He is more expansive in this Hamburg broadcast than in the commercial recording, paces the slow movement well, essaying some overtly expressive finger position changes as well as a kind of tense lyricism that marks out much of his playing. The finale shows the duo at its best, a real partnership, in strongly hewn playing. The violinist takes a near-Heifetz tempo in the opening of the last sonata in this disc, the Franck. The ethos is not at all Francophile – though he lived in Paris for a number years, his teacher there was Ivan Galamian – and there’s nothing here remotely to remind one of Thibaud, Dubois, or Francescatti. Again, an abiding tensile quality marks out his playing so that the fantasy element embedded in the third movement, for example, is somewhat muted. When the playing turns as febrile as it does, from time to time, it can become one-dimensional.

Nevertheless, this big, assertive, and bold playing has been captured in excellent sound, supported by a well-crafted booklet note. It adds materially to the duo’s representation on disc, expanding their discography too, not least because they never recorded the Mozart and Franck in the studio.

Jonathan Woolf



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