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Gateway into the Beyond
Eduard ERDMANN (1896-1958)
Sonata for solo violin, Op.12 (1920-21) [23:31]
Edmund von BORCK (1906-1944)
Praeludium for solo violin, Op.11; No.2 (1935) [3:24]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750
Sonata No.2 for solo violin in A minor, BWV1003 (1720) [24:56]
Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)
Sonata for solo violin, Op.31 No.2 (1924) [13:45]
Heinz SCHUBERT (1908-1945)
Phantasie for solo violin (1943) [13:17]
Lucas Brunnert (violin)
rec. 2014, Schloss Laudon, Haderdorf
ALDILĄ ARCD006 [79:47]

Solo violin discs are not exactly uncommon but it’s always valuable to encounter one that meshes previously unrecorded works with canonic pieces by, as here, Bach and Hindemith. That is the state of play in Lucas Brunnert’s challengingly concentrated focus on the repertoire with its principal concern being works written between 1920 and 1943.

Eduard Erdmann is best remembered as a leading pianist whose Schubert, Schumann and Beethoven performances, either in the studio or caught off-air, have always stimulated interest, pro and contra. The ‘philosopher-pianist’ wrote large-scale music, notably symphonies, but his 1920-21 Violin Sonata, written for Alma Moodie, the Flesch student who famously never recorded and died in tragic circumstances, won a reputation as a brittle and unattractive piece. This was largely because it was never much performed so Brunnert has provided useful service in performing it here. Erdmann wrote it shortly after Artur Schnabel, surely Erdmann’s superior in the philosopher-pianist stakes, wrote his own solo violin sonata. So, one can situate it as post-Schnabel and post-Reger – and note how very different it is from both - but pre-Ysa’e. There’s much free tonality and the harmonic sophistication is clear. Of austerity there’s certainly a considerable amount but this is counterbalanced by an occasionally wintry wit. It’s music of abrasive contrasts, hints of folkloric influence (but don’t expect evocations of folk fiddling in the village), a droll use of pizzicati, slow terse introspection, and rhythmically vivid writing throughout. It’s not a necessarily ingratiating work and you need to work hard at it, but it proves increasingly impressive on repeated listening. Its reputation as inaccessible is hardly warranted.

Heinz Schubert is probably best-known on disc from Furtwängler’s live 1942 performance of his Hymnisches Konzert for soloists (Erna Berger and Walter Ludwig, no less), organ and orchestra, an impressive, large-scale 38-minute work. His Phantasie for solo violin was composed the following year and was his penultimate work before he was drafted into the German army and killed in battle in March 1945. It’s a two-movement construction with a Praeludium followed by a Toccata, the whole being profoundly introspective though exceptionally well written for the instrument. Its rootedness in Bach is clear but it possesses a sure appreciation of contemporary techniques and harmony. The notes characterise it as ‘hymnic-ecstatic’ in tone, and that is a fair, if perhaps over-effusive description.

The last previously unrecorded piece is Edmund von Borck’s Praeludium, Op.11 No.2, composed in 1935. Borck, pianist and composer, was another victim of the war, killed in February 1944 whilst fighting the Allied landing in Italy. The Praeludium was long lost and only reappeared quite recently; it was finally published in 2003. It’s a brief affair and its austerity, even in double stopping, is perfectly clear.

Hindemith’s Sonata Op.31 No.2 was composed in 1924 and fits in well in this context. Its wonderfully fluid elegance, expressive intimacy, its humour – Brunnert gets the pizzicato games of the third movement just right – and its suavely droll Mozartian variations are a tonic to hear, given some of the more darker-edged and internalised emotions to be heard - perfectly understandably – elsewhere in the programme. Bach is not quite the fons et origo of solo violin works but his A minor Sonata allows Brunnert to expand the breadth of his reach and he plays it with discretion and clarity.

There are some good biographical notes and some ECM-styled black and white photographs that are whimsically irrelevant to the matter in hand. A picture or two of the composers would have been more interesting than that of a car gear box but then perhaps that’s just me and you might enjoy the photo of a car wing mirror and swaying reeds beyond. Other than this determined otherness, this is a well recorded, brave and valuable, if necessarily specialised recording.

Jonathan Woolf

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