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Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)
Sonata for solo viola, Op 31 No 4 [17:33]
Sonata for solo viola (1937) [15:49]
Sonata for solo viola, Op 11 No 5 [20:51]
Sonata for solo viola Op 25 No 1 [15:03]
Luca Ranieri (viola)
rec. 2017, Museum of Santa Croce, Umbertide, Italy

It doesn’t seem that long since I was reviewing Laura Menegozzo’s disappointing recording of these wonderful works (SSP 2016). Here again we have another recording that doesn’t challenge my personal favourite, i.e. that by Lawrence Power on Hyperion (CDA67769). In the present Ranieri recording, whilst the playing is a lot better than Menegozzo’s (as are the production values; at least you get brief notes) it is the recording itself that is the problem. As soon as you press play and hear the first few bars you become aware of the reverberant acoustic of the recording venue.

The all-around performance of Luca Ranieri is better than Menegozzo’s, with tempos that, whilst a bit faster, are still on the turgid side. For example the opening track sees Äusserst lebhaft lasting half a minute more than Power’s recording. This is the case with the majority of the tracks, with Luca Ranieri seemingly aiming for the middle ground between Power and Menegozzo. This can be seen in the third movement of the Sonata for solo viola Op 11 No 5, which is marked Scherzo: Schnell. Whereas the Schnell is lacking in Menegozzo’s performance (4:16 compared to the 3:39 of Luca Ranieri on this recording), it is still slow when compared to the 2:55 of Power. If it was a straight choice between the recordings of Ranieri and Menegozzo there would be no competition, with Ranieri coming out streets ahead; not just for tempos, his performance is more insightful and he is able to show more of the composer’s personality through his interpretation. Unfortunately, it is not just a straight choice and there are a lot of fine recordings out there. If asked to recommend a version of these super sonatas, I would still without hesitation plum for Laurence Power on Hyperion. His performance though a lot quicker, never sounds rushed whilst it also benefits from superior recorded sound and booklet notes.

The recorded sound is what lets this CD down. The reverberation is at times annoying as it appears more as an echo. Without this issue, my review would have been far more approving of Ranieri’s efforts. The booklet notes are very good, with three and a bit pages of detailed information about the composer and his music in both English and Italian.

Stuart Sillitoe

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