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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Violin Sonata in E minor, Op.82 (1918) [27:08]
Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
Mythes: Trois Poèmes, Op.30 (1915) [23:10]
Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879-1936)
Violin Sonata in B minor, P110 (1917) [27:55]
Dryads Duo: Carla Santos (violin): Saul Picado (piano)
rec. August 2016, Fundação Eng. António de Almeida, Porto

The Elgar-Respighi coupling is by no means unique; James Ehnes, for instance, has recorded them for Onyx [4159] adding the Debussy Sonata and Sibelius’ little Berceuse. The Dryads Duo, the Portuguese pairing of violinist Carla Santos and pianist Saul Picado, has opted instead for Szymanowski, locking their focus tightly on the compositional years 1915-18 though, perhaps wisely, the booklet notes don’t allude to this proximity as other discs have. It’s a long way, after all, from Respighi’s late-romanticism to Szymanowski’s eroticism.

The performance of the Elgar Sonata reminds me very much of Tasmin Little and Martin Roscoe’s on GMNC0113. The proportions are similar, though there is a difference in tonal weight, of course. Carla Santos however is not afraid here and throughout the recital, of essaying quick, period-conscious portamenti and Saul Picado is rightly prominent in the balance, ensuring this is a true ensemble. Some tremulous elements in the slow movement may not convince but the wistful, definably feminine start of the finale is attractively done. Is that an edit at 5:11? The finale’s reminiscence of the slow movement is well established, more regretful than passionate, and architecturally excellent.

Neither the Elgar nor Respighi is especially slow, though they’re both slower than is ideal because of the sectionality that can creep into passagework, and this is sometimes what occasionally happens in the first movement of the Respighi. It can sound a little over-emphatic despite the profuse finger positions changes and slides that once again bring a stylistically self-aware sense of colour and life to the performance. There could be greater body of tone in the slow movement and arguably greater propulsion – Heifetz and Suk set the agenda for speed here – in the tremendous Passacaglia finale. Szymanowski’s Mythes are played with perception although a greater tonal sensuousness such as Jacques Thibaud found in La Fontaine d’Arethuse, for example – to set the bar almost impossibly high – would have been welcome.

For the Elgar-Respighi nexus I’d go for Ehnes and Armstrong on Onyx; for the former on its own you should have Sammons/Murdoch as your historic reference, Kennedy/Pettinger for a concertante approach and von Keulen and Brautigam to show how a lithe reading pays dividends. There are plenty of others. No one has matched Heifetz in Respighi, but Suk, Ehnes and Little – who couples it with the Strauss Sonata on Chandos – are recommendable modern versions. It’s a crying shame that Paul Kochanski never recorded any Szymanowski but you could do a lot worse than Ida Haendel’s Decca and one of Wanda Wilkomirska’s recordings (if you can find any).

Jonathan Woolf



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